Just days after telling reporters at the capitol that she had no intention of clearing the way for articles of impeachment to proceed against President Donald Trump, reports indicate that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is taking meetings on the issue with top Democrats and considering backing the effort.
The Washington Post reports that Pelosi will take part in a high-level meeting of her own caucus Tuesday at 4 pm Eastern time and impeachment is the top item on the agenda. The move comes the same day that WaPo published an op-ed from a bipartisan group of freshman lawmakers declaring their support for impeachment proceedings.
Pelosi, the WaPo says, has been “quietly sounding out” key legislators even as she’s been publicly condemning the idea of impeachment as too “divisive” ahead of a major election. On Sunday, Pelosi actually fired back at freshman member of Congress Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) after the latter took her to task over the issue, claiming Pelosi’s refusal to pursue impeachment was a worse scandal than anything the Trump White House has produced.
“Pelosi’s conversations — and reconsideration of her long-held position that impeachment is too divisive — come amid a growing clamor for impeachment that extends beyond the party’s liberal base and many Democratic presidential candidates to moderate lawmakers in competitive House seats,” WaPo reports.
The impetus for this sudden change of heart seems to be reports that the president pressured members of the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden — specifically whether Biden pressured prosecutors in Ukraine to avoid investigating a company with ties to his son, Hunter Biden. Over the weekend, the story caught fire among leftists, particularly those still angry that the Mueller Report produced no causes of action.
Tuesday, the issue became more serious, as President Trump confirmed in a speech to the United Nations that he halted military aid to Ukraine ahead of the now-notorious phone call, according to the Associated Press. Although the media immediately tried to move the narrative to Trump’s efforts against Biden, Trump explained in the same speech that he withheld the funds in order to encourage more European allies to back Ukraine in its territorial disputes with Russia.
“As far as withholding funds, those funds were paid,” Trump said in his remarks. “They were fully paid. But my complaint has always been, and I’d withhold again and I’ll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine.”
Some Democratic lawmakers maintain that the admission is proof that Trump used his office to unduly pressure Ukrainian authorities to turn over information on the Bidens’ dealings, and for that, they want impeachment.
That may not be why Pelosi is suddenly considering impeaching the president, though. Throughout Trump’s first term, Pelosi has tolerated investigations but never impeachment, likely on the theory that impeachment would be unpopular and that the president would use Democratic attacks to his advantage, putting him in a plum position to recapture his key voter demographics in 2020.
Now, though, there’s some indication that while impeachment is unpopular overall, it’s popular in some districts where Democrats are facing competitive races — and especially in districts where Democrats are facing a challenge from the Left. In order to preserve her majority, Pelosi may have to rubber-stamp impeachment proceedings, risking the national election in order to preserve key statewide races.
That’s also Nancy’s problem: impeachment might satisfy progressives, but there’s little chance they weren’t turning out to the polls. It will definitely light a fire under Trump’s base, giving the president plenty of ammunition to attack any Democratic opponent in the 2020 race. And if that opponent happens to be Biden, the issue of improperly manipulating foreign governments now cuts both ways.