March 15, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chooses her battles carefully—and she sure knows how to pick her way through a G.O.P. minefield.
In a March 11 interview with The Washington Post Magazine that has since gone viral, Pelosi said that she is “not for [the] impeachment” of President Donald Trump because “it divides the country … And he’s just not worth it.”
However, her statement—which was well-received by the president and his Republican posse during a time of partisan division—only has widened the fissure among House Democrats.
On the one hand, she reaffirmed what many cooler heads in the caucus are saying: That impeachment should be based solely on facts and evidence—not political considerations. And that the evidence of criminal conduct should be so unassailable that it inflames bipartisan censure.
On the other hand, many of the party’s newbies—elected in 2016—think there’s already evidence of malfeasance and it should be acted on immediately.
Thus, Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, sided with the Speaker, telling reporters, “A bipartisan process would have to be extra clear and compelling. I think the Speaker is absolutely right. In its absence, an impeachment … becomes a partisan exercise doomed for failure. And I see little to be gained by putting the country through that kind of wrenching experience.”
Conversely, Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), who has been in office since 2017, told Politico that impeaching the president isn’t about “whether or not the president is worth it. The question is whether the republic is worth it and whether the public interest commands it and whether there are high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Raskin added, “We can’t get so frustrated with Donald Trump that we impeach him just for being Donald Trump, but we can’t get so frustrated with Donald Trump that we don’t impeach him because he’s Donald Trump.”
Politico noted that, while Speaker Pelosi had somewhat distanced herself from taking action on impeachment, she had not ruled it out–leaving it as a very real and possible option, should the committees’ investigations turn up any real dirt.
“I think there’s enough going on in the various committees for impeachment to take care of itself,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina) told the political news outlet. “These committees have to build will in the American people for impeachment. Impeachment is a political question. I don’t care what we may feel — if the public isn’t there, we can’t go there. And I think the committee hearings and various things going on are what’s needed in order for the public to get where they need to be.”
Research contact: @sarahnferris