WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comment this week that impeaching President Donald Trump might not be “worth it” found some early backing — and little pushback — from House Democrats, even though they are in the majority and a growing number support moving to remove the president from office.
Some of Pelosi’s colleagues echoed her point, arguing that impeachment would be too divisive, while others dismissed the significance of the comment itself, saying it was no different from her previous statements. Several said House Democrats should focus instead on demonstrating that they can govern by promoting a progressive agenda. And those Democrats who disagreed with Pelosi avoided direct criticism of her remark.
“I think Speaker Pelosi is doing exactly what she should be doing, which is focusing on making sure that we can propose and implement our agenda,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., told reporters Tuesday morning. “We have to make sure we wait for all the facts. And I think there's no one in this Congress, certainly on our side faced with clear evidence that any president had committed high crimes and misdemeanors, that we wouldn't pursue the appropriate actions — but we're not at that point.”
The reaction followed Pelosi's clearest comments yet on her view of Trump's potential impeachment.
“Impeachment is so divisive to the country that 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," she said in an interview with The Washington Post published Monday. "And he's just not worth it."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., agreed with Pelosi.
“I certainly agree that in the absence of very compelling evidence that either Mueller produces or we’re able to find, gaining the bipartisan support necessary, impeachment to be successful, would be enormously difficult,” Schiff told reporters Monday night. “While I don’t exclude that possibility, I don’t think we should put the country through impeachment without that amount of evidence.”
Many Democrats said that Pelosi has not changed her tune on impeachment, pointing out that she has not yet ruled it out.
“She said essentially what I’ve been saying. We’re not nearly there yet. We may or may not get there,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.
Others took pains to disagree with Pelosi without directly criticizing her statement.
"I am beginning the investigation," said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., on Tuesday, who said after being sworn in in January that Democrats were going to "impeach the motherf---er."
"I think it's really important that all of us, every American in this country, has a transparent process that they all can participate in and listen in and be able to work with their member of Congress to ask the tough questions that need to be asked," she said. "That doesn't mean we're voting on it. It means we're beginning the process to look at some of these alleged claims, these impeachable offenses."
Impeachment "is going to come together,” said House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., when Americans “are absolutely demanding it, and you have some Republicans who can’t take it anymore and some of us who have the courage to do it.”
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who has previously introduced articles of impeachment against Trump, said there was utility in the push. "By calling for impeachment, by talking about impeachment, we were able to limit what this president would do," he said. "We're changing public opinion, and when public opinion is in support of removal, I'm confident that the impeachment will move forward," he added.
And Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, who has also introduced articles of impeachment against Trump, defended the idea, without directly criticizing Pelosi. "Is government of the people, by the people, for the people worth it? Is the country worth it?" he said Tuesday. "Do we want to maintain the country that we have? If we do, we have to then conclude that this is not about Democrats, it’s about democracy. It’s not about Republicans, it’s about the republic.
"And if we conclude that it’s about democracy and about the republic then we can embrace Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution, which deals with impeachment of an unfit president."
Overall, though, Democrats have largely steered clear of public impeachment chatter, while Republicans have argued that Democrats will use their power in the House to push impeachment.
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming said Pelosi's comment proves she isn’t in control of her own conference, many of whom back the idea. But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California had praise, however faint, for the speaker.
"I think Nancy Pelosi is smart to say that there shouldn’t be an impeachment, because there are no grounds to do it," McCarthy said at a news conference Tuesday. "But if you watch what the Democrat socialist party is doing, they have wanted to impeach this president for no other reason than dislike of the president."