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Pelosi calls McCarthy's argument she changed precedent on impeachment 'hogwash'

“Nancy Pelosi on 9/24 changed the precedent of the House, and you don’t have to have a vote,” Speaker Kevin McCarthy said after he announced an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
Nancy Pelosi speaks in New York on April 25, 2023.
“No, we had a vote. We were in preparation for a vote,” former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, pictured in New York in April, said in an interview Thursday on MSNBC.Jemal Countess / Getty Images for TIME

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pushed back Thursday against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's statement that he opened an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden without a full House vote because she set the precedent for such a move when she was speaker when she opened an inquiry into President Donald Trump in 2019.

McCarthy's announcement of the impeachment inquiry Tuesday was a flip-flop after he had said he wouldn’t open an inquiry without a House vote as members of his caucus expressed reservations about moving forward with an inquiry.

On Tuesday, McCarthy, R-Calif., said House Republicans would begin the impeachment inquiry to seek bank records and other documents from Biden and his son Hunter Biden, calling it a “logical next step” in the GOP-led investigations that have been underway for months. He also told reporters that he chose not to bring the issue to a floor vote because Pelosi, D-Calif., “changed the precedents for the House” during her time as speaker. “Nancy Pelosi on 9/24 changed the precedent of the House, and you don’t have to have a vote,” he said.

In an interview Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” co-anchor Willie Geist asked Pelosi about McCarthy’s argument that she had set a precedent and his claim that she waited a long time before she launched the earlier inquiry.

Her answer: McCarthy’s argument is “hogwash,” because Democrats did hold a vote supporting Trump's impeachment in a matter of weeks.

“I mean, it’s ridiculous,” Pelosi said. “And I don’t know why the press keeps repeating it. The fact is we said we were going to — I assigned my committee chairs, six of them, to develop the facts, because you have to act upon the facts. That’s a strange thing to say, maybe, around here, but you have to act upon the facts.”

Pelosi criticized Republicans for conducting monthslong investigations into Biden and his family that have not produced evidence of wrongdoing by the president or connections between him and his son’s foreign business dealings.

“They’ve had eight months of investigation come up with nothing, and now they’re trying to say, 'Well, we’re not going to have a vote because Nancy didn’t have a vote the first day,'” she said. “No, we had a vote. We were in preparation for a vote.”

She stressed that when it comes to impeachment, “you have to do it with care and not on impulse,” adding that House Democrats moved forward with impeaching Trump when they “had the case ready.”

“Now they, again, have been investigating for months, coming up with nothing," Pelosi said. "And now they’re going to say on the basis of nothing: ‘We’re not going to have a vote on how we go forward.’”

“Don’t blame it on me,” she said. “Just take responsibility for what you were doing there, and don’t misrepresent the care that we took, the respect that we had for the institution, to go forward in a way that really addressed the high crimes and misdemeanors of Donald Trump.”

Reached for comment about Pelosi's pushback over McCarthy’s remarks that she set a precedent, McCarthy's communications director, Mark Bednar, pointed to NBC News' coverage of Pelosi's decision to launch the impeachment inquiry into Trump in 2019 and asked whether she would be questioned about that.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pelosi launched the first impeachment probe into Trump in 2019 without a full House vote; House Democrats announced two articles of impeachment against him about 2½ months after she announced the formal impeachment inquiry.

They alleged Trump “corruptly solicited the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations” into the Bidens and fostered a conspiracy theory alleging Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. Trump was impeached in December 2019 but was acquitted in the Senate. He denied wrongdoing and repeatedly called the inquiry a "witch hunt" by his political opponents.