House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi believes President Donald Trump will “self-impeach” and that Democrats should wait for the Russia investigations — especially special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — to play out before pushing to remove him from the Oval Office.
Pelosi also believes that if Trump fired Mueller — which some Trump allies are encouraging the president to do — it would be enough to push Republicans to begin seriously considering acting against the president on their own.
The California Democrat made the comments during a closed-door meeting Tuesday as part of a broader effort to discourage rank-and-file lawmakers from continuing to talk publicly about impeaching the president right now.
“It’s a big deal to talk about impeachment,” Pelosi told her colleagues, according to multiple Democratic sources. “I think he’s going to self-impeach.”
Pelosi’s views are important because while she has publicly dismissed discussions on impeaching Trump, her remarks show she thinks the president will ultimately take some action that will be egregious enough to make it easy for Congress to act. And she could end up speaker again after November 2018 if Democrats regain control of the House, giving her much more influence over Trump’s success or failure as president.
In the meantime, Pelosi argued, Democrats risk turning the spotlight on themselves when it should remain on Trump and his actions during the ongoing congressional and independent investigations.
FBI Director James Comey last week accused Trump of lying about whether the president tried to obstruct the criminal investigation in former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Comey also testified the president pressured him to “lift the cloud” around the ongoing Russia probe. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is set to testify Tuesday afternoon before the Senate Intelligence Committee and will be asked about Comey’s comments, as well as undisclosed meetings he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Sessions has recused himself from any role in the Russian election interference probes because he failed to reveal two such meetings during his confirmation hearing.
Pelosi’s point is that Trump and his allies are doing enough to potentially impede the investigation — and possibly trigger impeachment down the road — that there’s no upside to House Democrats interfering right now.
At best, Democrats risk distracting from Trump’s ongoing controversies if they push too hard on impeaching Trump now, party leaders say. And at worst, Democrats could alienate independent voters who could be the key to handing them back control of the House.
Pelosi’s comments came during a tense discussion over controversial actions from Rep. Brad Sherman, who circulated a draft article of impeachment Monday and said he might force debate on the issue on the House floor.
Sherman’s tactic prompted a stern rebuke from fellow Democratic Rep. Mike Capuano of Massachusetts during Tuesday’s caucus meeting.
Capuano said actions like Sherman’s, without first consulting the entire Democratic Caucus, can inflict serious damage to other members and potential candidates in districts where Trump is popular.
“Emotions are high. These issues have political implications and government ones,” Capuano said, according to sources in the room. There needs to be “a discussion within the caucus — in a public forum — before we do something that would position our colleagues or our future colleagues,” he added.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) agreed, calling it a “courtesy to our colleagues.”
“There is a need for a family discussion before any issue of this magnitude is brought forward,” Crowley said.
“I do think the issue of impeachment is a very profound issue, one that strikes at the core of our Democracy,” Crowley added in a post-caucus news conference.
Sherman said in an interview with POLITICO afterward that Capuano was mostly upset about the idea of forcing a floor debate on impeachment without first talking the issue out in caucus.
“Under the circumstances as they exist now, the answer is no,” Sherman said when asked whether he would try to bring the issue up on the floor even if Pelosi and other leaders advised against it.
“But you’re asking me what I’m going to do months and months from now … If there was mixed view — some leadership said this, some said that — who knows?”