Pressure on Pelosi to impeach Trump grows

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is holding firm against impeaching Donald Trump, even as she comes under fresh pressure from frustrated progressives to take a stand on the president’s alleged political pressure campaign on Ukraine.

Reports that Trump in a July call pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden are raising howls from Democrats, who are casting it as Trump’s most egregious act in a long string of controversies.

{mosads}But the startling new developments have not appeared to change Pelosi’s strategy on impeachment, a path she’s warned could be politically perilous for her party in 2020.

Sources close to Pelosi say, barring some earth-shattering development, the Speaker is unlikely to make a dramatic 180-degree turn on her impeachment position.

“This is chess, not checkers,” said one Democratic source, describing the Speaker’s big-picture approach to the impeachment question.

In both public and private, Pelosi, a 32-year House veteran who did not make any public remarks on Monday, has argued that Democrats should aggressively investigate Trump but shouldn’t move on impeachment without overwhelming support from the public and buy-in from Republicans, who control the Senate.

{mossecondads}Some moderate House Democrats fear that impeachment could spark a backlash from voters and cost them Trump-district seats that helped propel the party to the majority in 2018. Freshman Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), who represents a district Trump won in 2016, called out the president in a statement Monday without mentioning the “I-word.”

“We cannot allow even the possibility to exist that our President used the immense power of that office to protect his own selfish interests, rather than to protect the American people. The safety and security of all Americans is at stake in Ukraine and anywhere that our adversaries threaten the cause of freedom,” Lamb said. “As lawmakers, we swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. We will get the truth.”

But in a sign of the growing pressure on Pelosi — and how the politics within her caucus are evolving — another moderate freshman Democrat, Dean Phillips of Minnesota, said he would back impeachment if the reports turn out to be true.

“This continues a pattern of behavior that is corrupt at best, treasonous at worst, and puts our rule of law at risk,” Phillips said in a statement Monday. “If the reports are corroborated, we must pursue articles of impeachment and report them to the full House of Representatives for immediate consideration.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a fellow California Democrat and Pelosi ally, appeared to break with the Speaker on Sunday, telling CNN that impeachment may be the “only remedy” if it turns out Trump threatened to withhold $250 million in foreign aid unless Ukraine investigated Biden. Trump confirmed he discussed Biden with Ukraine’s leader, but on Monday he said he never mentioned or threatened to withhold military aid.

“I did not make a statement that you have to do this or I’m not going to give you aid,” Trump told reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

“I wouldn’t do that. With that being said, what I want is, I want — you know, we’re giving a lot of money away to Ukraine and other places. You want to see a country that’s going to be not corrupt,” Trump continued.

Schiff made clear that he was not rushing headlong into the impeachment push, which he called an “extraordinary remedy” in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

And it’s safe to assume Pelosi wasn’t caught off guard by Schiff’s “remedy” line. The Speaker spoke to Schiff several times over the weekend to coordinate their messaging on the Ukraine story, a source familiar with the
conversations told The Hill.

Pelosi, Schiff and other top Democrats will be closely watching what happens on Thursday. That’s when Joseph Maguire, Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, will publicly testify before Schiff’s Intelligence panel. Maguire is refusing to turn over to Congress a whistleblower complaint about Trump’s alleged “promise” to Ukraine, even though the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, has reviewed the complaint and called it an “urgent concern.”

Democrats also are demanding that the White House release the transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky, which would clarify what exactly was said about the foreign aid, Biden and Biden’s son, who had business interests in Ukraine.

“I think she can” stave off the impeachment calls. “But the facts this week — if we get them from the horse’s mouth — could change that,” one moderate House Democrat, who publicly does not back impeachment, told The Hill on Monday.

“We will need actual facts and transcripts. It can’t be a he said, she said.”

In a Sunday letter to rank-and-file Democrats, Pelosi has warned that such stonewalling from the Trump administration would propel Democrats “into a whole new stage of investigation.” But she stopped short of saying it would directly lead to impeachment.

“I don’t see movement yet” on impeachment, said one House Democrat who has opposed impeachment.

Pelosi’s reticence — especially after the bombshell Trump-Ukraine reports — has infuriated progressives who see it as their constitutional duty to impeach the president. They say she refused to advance impeachment after the April release of the Mueller report, which raised serious questions about whether Trump obstructed the Russia investigation. She refused to budge after Mueller testified before Congress that his investigation did not exonerate the president.

And Pelosi has stayed the course as the Trump administration has stonewalled Democratic investigators at every turn.

“Her position at this point makes no sense. Who knows what will move her, honestly,” said one senior Democratic source on Capitol Hill. “The fair election is the foundation of our democracy. Trump used his position to pressure a foreign government into subjugating our most sacred process.”

Other veteran Democrats in Washington predicted that Pelosi would not be able to stem the rising tide of support for impeachment from rank-and-file Democrats, some members of her own leadership team, and 2020 presidential candidates including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.

“I appreciate what the Speaker’s done so far, but I’m not so sure she can delay any longer. I’d be surprised if she doesn’t make some sort of significant move by the end of the week, sooner rather than later,” said Jim Manley, a former top aide to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“It’s just become an untenable position; just doing nothing is no longer sustainable. Whether the moderates get on board or not remains to be seen. But if they don’t, I think they’ll get run over,” Manley added.

—Juliegrace Brufke and Cristina Marcos contributed.

Tags Adam Schiff Cory Booker Dean Phillips Donald Trump Donald Trump Impeachment Elizabeth Warren Harry Reid Impeachment Jake Tapper Joe Biden Nancy Pelosi Ukraine

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