If Not Trump, Then Who? Pelosi Fuels Impeachment Debate With Long Implications

“I disagree with her,” Representative Juan C. Vargas, Democrat of California, said on Tuesday. “The Constitution is clear: If there’s an impeachable offense, we should impeach the president or impeach whoever. And that’s what we should do: Follow the Constitution and not politics.”

Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, who has vehemently declared that “we’re going to impeach” Mr. Trump, said that she would continue to press for investigations that could lead to that. “Speaker Pelosi has always encouraged me to represent my district, has never told me to stop, has never told me to do anything differently, ever,” she said.

Some in the party leadership, however, bristled at the pressure to impeach from newly elected liberals like Ms. Tlaib, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. “We’ve got 62 new members,” snapped Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader. “Not three.”

But even some impeachment advocates acknowledged the practical reality behind Ms. Pelosi’s position. “We won’t actually remove this president until Sean Hannity calls for us to remove this president. Or until Laura Ingraham,” said Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, who has already introduced articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump. “Until we drive home our message, change public opinion and develop more facts.”

At the White House, the speaker’s comments offered an opportunity to claim vindication while driving a wedge among the opposition. “I’m glad that she sees what the rest of us see and that there’s no reason, no cause for impeachment,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Tuesday on Fox News.

“It’s time for other Democrats in Nancy Pelosi’s party to get on board,” she added, and to “start doing what they were elected to do — do their jobs and quit trying to focus so much on making excuses for the historic loss that they suffered in 2016.”

The reluctance of Democratic leaders to pursue impeachment owes to the scars left by the clash between Mr. Clinton and Congress in 1998-99, when Republicans suffered at the ballot box from what appeared to be a partisan drive to push out the president. Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, who served on the House Judiciary Committee at the time and is now the panel’s chairman, has said that some accusations against Mr. Trump appear impeachable, and yet he would not seek to move to impeach the president without signs of Republican support.

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