As the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi is going to have to decide whether or not to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
This is not a hypothetical question now that Democrats are in control of the House. And even though Pelosi has expressed reluctance to press for impeachment of Trump, after one day she is already under enormous pressure from members of her own House Democratic Caucus.
Many new Democrats in the House are both progressive and militant and are not going to be content to sit back and do nothing about a president who they believe is not only criminal but also a threat to democracy and to the United States.
On her first day as Speaker, Rep. Pelosi downplayed impeachment talk during a series of high-profile media interviews. Her position is to “wait and see” what happens with both the Mueller probe and House investigations.
She also said that any efforts to impeach the president would have to involve both parties. She said impeachment “would have to be so clearly bipartisan.”
“If there’s to be grounds for impeachment of President Trump – and I’m not seeking those grounds – that would have to be so clearly bipartisan in terms of acceptance of it before I think we should go down any impeachment path,” Pelosi told USA TODAY.
“We have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report,” Pelosi said in a separate interview with NBC’s “Today” show. “We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason.”
The activist group of younger and more progressive House Democrats can’t wait to use their new power to aggressively go after Trump, however.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) called to impeach President Trump on her first day in Congress in an op-ed on Thursday in the Detroit Free Press titled “Now is the time to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.”
“While Congress has the impeachment power to prevent future harm to our government, prosecutors have the power to seek punishment for those who commit crimes,” Tlaib wrote.
“Those who say we must wait for Special Counsel Mueller to complete his criminal investigation before Congress can start any impeachment proceedings ignore this crucial distinction,” she continued.
Older and more conservative Democrats seem to be afraid that moves to impeach now would be seen as partisan overreach. They worry that this would hurt the party’s chances of beating Trump 2020.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) introduced articles of impeachment yesterday, showing that there may be internal battles about impeachment within Pelosi’s caucus.
“There is no reason [impeachment] shouldn’t be before the Congress,” Sherman told the Los Angeles Times. “Every day, Donald Trump shows that leaving the White House would be good for our country.”
Pelosi wants Democrats to wait until after Mueller issues his final report on the Russia probe. But that doesn’t mean Democrats are going to wait to exert oversight of the Trump administration. Pelosi and other top House Democrats who will chair important committees, have vowed to investigate Trump very aggressively.
“He was used to serving with a Republican Congress, House and Senate that was a rubber stamp to him. That won’t be the case,” Pelosi told USA TODAY. “Oversight of government by the Congress is our responsibility. That’s the role that we play.”
Although at some point Pelosi will probably have to make a decision on impeachment, she probably can buy time by having various committees begin hearings on Trump crimes and corruption.
Still, if the Mueller report is issued with evidence of more Trump crimes, and if House hearings also unveil evidence of more Trump crimes, then Pelosi will face enormous pressure to move forward on impeachment. The pressure will come from the American public as well as from members of her own party.
“It’s not too soon to be talking about it,” incoming House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told CNN on Thursday. “We will have to decide whether or not it’s the correct course of action. But certainly we should be discussing it and asking those questions and figuring out what the best course of action is.”
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.