Democrats divided over impeachment as Pelosi backs go-slow approach

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The tensions displayed behind closed doors underscore the growing divide within the caucus about how to proceed in the face of White House resistance to all its demands, as Pelosi and her top confidants argue that acting with too much haste would be a gift to their political foes while a faction of Democrats push them to take a tougher stand against what they call a lawless President.

The renewed divisions came as the administration has continued to rebuff congressional demands for documents and testimony, including from former White House counsel Don McGahn, who the White House has directed not to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The House Democrats’ debate took place behind closed doors in several meetings Monday evening — in Pelosi’s leadership office, in a larger meeting of the Democratic steering committee and in the House Judiciary Committee.

Several Democrats — including Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who sit on the Judiciary Committee¬†— argued that the panel should begin an impeachment inquiry to hold the President accountable for the stonewalling. Others, including Pelosi, rejected that approach, saying the methodical approach has been successful so far.

Among Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, members laid out their opposing viewpoints, with some discussing offering an impeachment inquiry resolution in the coming days. At that meeting, committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York was mum on his preferred approach but said he planned to speak with Pelosi, who has been eager to tamp down calls for impeachment.

In public, Nadler has been resistant to launching impeachment proceedings but has left the door open.

“There’s a lot of considerations on that,” Nadler said Monday on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.” “We may do that.”

At a meeting with House Democrats on the steering committee Monday night, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee asked Pelosi why she did not support impeachment. According to three Democratic sources, Pelosi went around the room and let members voice their opinions on the matter, then laid down her own view.

She said Democrats need to be careful about how they proceed and noted that they had just had a victory in court earlier Monday over demands for Trump’s financial records. She defended the Democratic approach, arguing that it was getting “results” and that one thing will lead to another in order to get information.

She said the committees were on course to be successful and Democrats’ message must be “No one is above the law,” and that they are witnessing “the cover-up.”

The California Democrat also said they all agreed they needed to get to the truth, but that the public believes kitchen table issues must also be dealt with.

Speaking to reporters Monday about their views on impeachment, Cicilline and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York — both members of Democratic leadership and the House Judiciary Committee — expressed opposite opinions about how to proceed amid White House resistance to their demands.

Cicilline said he would argue that the “time has come” for an impeachment inquiry if McGahn does not show up before the judiciary panel on Tuesday.

“We have a responsibility at some point to open up an inquiry if this kind of obstruction and interference and stonewalling of the entire investigation continues,” Cicilline said.

Jeffries was somewhat optimistic, asking why Democrats should move to open an impeachment inquiry if they were winning in the court system. He said they would have a “discussion about the best way to proceed” and had “laid out a methodical approach.”

“That approach, I think, was validated today by the decision that was made in the Mazars case, showing that Congress does have constitutionally anchored oversight responsibility to ask questions and obtain documentation, notwithstanding the fact that we see the stonewaller in chief and his flunkies in the executive branch suggesting otherwise,” Jeffries said.

Asked further about opening an impeachment inquiry at this point, Jeffries responded, “The question is why would we open an impeachment inquiry If we’re winning?”

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