“I’m not for impeachment,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before.”
To date, Pelosi has demurred on the matter, telling reporters that impeachment and even an indictment were “open questions,” saying she’d like to learn the results of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report before deciding on a course of action.
While Pelosi is stating her personal preference, she left some wiggle room to launch impeachment proceedings if the report reveals “something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan.”
“Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country,” Pelosi said. “And he’s just not worth it.”
House Democrats downplayed Pelosi’s comments Monday evening, insisting they are not a departure from the caucus’s stated intent to see where the investigations lead before committing to impeachment.
“I think you’re making something bigger than what it is,” House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said. “Everybody knows impeachment has to be a bipartisan thing. I think the speaker sees that.”
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who would lead impeachment proceedings in the lower chamber, also said he’s on the same page as Pelosi.
“She’s laid down a number of conditions. She says it has to be bipartisan, the evidence has to be overwhelming, which is what I’ve been saying,” Nadler, D-N.Y., said. “I’ve stated my position. It has to be enough evidence that you think you’ll get substantial support from the opposition voters.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, agreed that public opinion must change in order to pressure Republicans into a situation where they can’t defend or tolerate the president’s actions any longer.
“We have no idea what this is going to lead to but we have to go through the investigations,” Jayapal, D-Wash., said. “I think everybody wants to jump to the end, but we’re not at the end. We’re at the beginning of the process and we have to let that process play out.”
Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, agreed that Pelosi is simply qualifying her personal support for impeachment, with the prospect that the Mueller report draws “serious conclusions.”
“I can’t imagine she’d say don’t do your constitutional duty if there was real evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors. She may say, ‘Well that’s our duty,’ but she’s making clear that should be the bar.”
A Pelosi spokesperson told ABC News that her office is not commenting on the matter any further.
This might be the latest talking point for Pelosi regarding Trump’s impeachment prospects, but there’s a genuine realization in the House Democratic Caucus that impeachment would be a waste of time with a Republican-controlled Senate serving as a firewall to protect the president from conviction.
Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat with a seat on the House Judiciary Committee, called Pelosi’s public posture “an interesting approach.”
“I don’t think the votes are anywhere near being there,” Cohen said. “There’s only a handful of Republicans that will do anything that’s questionable of Trump.”
Instead, House Democrats are likely to maintain their pursuit of the president through investigations — hoping to discredit him so much that he’s unelectable in 2020.