House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set a high bar for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, saying he is “just not worth it” even as some on her own party clamor to start proceedings. Pelosi said in an interview with The Washington Post on March 11 that she would not be in favor of impeaching Trump. “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. While she has made similar comments before, Pelosi is making clear to her caucus and to voters that Democrats will not move forward quickly with trying to remove Trump from office. And it is a departure from her previous comments that Democrats are waiting on special counsel Robert Mueller to lay out findings from his Russia investigation before considering impeachment.
That thinking among Democrats has shifted in part because of the possibility that Mueller’s report will not be decisive and because his investigation is more narrowly focused. Instead, House Democrats are pursuing their own broad, high-profile investigations that will keep the focus on Trump’s business dealings and relationship with Russia, exerting congressional oversight without having to broach the subject of Impeachment. Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), one of the lawmakers leading those investigations, said he agrees with Pelosi and Congress needs “to do our homework.” Congressman Cummings said impeachment “has to be a bipartisan effort, and right now it’s not there.” “I get the impression this matter will only be resolved at the polls,” Cummings said.
Some new freshman Democrats who hail from solidly liberal districts have not shied away from the subject of impeaching President Trump. For example, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) used a vulgarity in calling for Trump’s impeachment the day she was sworn in. Billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who is bankrolling a campaign pushing for Trump’s impeachment, shot back at Pelosi on Monday: “Speaker Pelosi thinks ‘he’s just not worth it?’ Well, is defending our legal system ‘worth it?’ Is holding the president accountable for his crimes and cover-ups ‘worth it?’ Is doing what’s right ‘worth it?’ Or shall America stop fighting for our principles and do what’s politically convenient.” Other lawmakers who have called for impeachment looked at Pelosi’s comments more practically. Congresman Brad Sherman (D-CA), who filed articles of impeachment against Trump on the first day of the new Congress in January, acknowledged that there is not yet public support for impeachment, but noted that Pelosi “didn’t say ‘I am against it if the public is clamoring for it.’”
Republicans alternately praised Pelosi and were skeptical. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said “I agree” in response to Pelosi’s words. Sanders added of impeachment, “I don’t think it should have ever been on the table.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said it was a “smart thing for her to say,” but Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said he does not think it’s “going to fly” with some of Pelosi’s members. “I do believe what Speaker Pelosi understands is that what they want to do is going to require far more than what they have now, so I think they are hedging their bet on it,” Collins said. Freshman Democrats who are from more moderate districts and will have to win re-election again in two years have been fully supportive of Pelosi’s caution. “When we have something that’s very concrete, and we have something that is compelling enough to get a strong majority of Americans, then we’ll do it,” said Congresswoman Katie Hill (D-CA). “But if it’s going to be a political disaster for us, then we’re not going to do it.”