Pelosi under growing impeachment pressure from key Democrats

Heidi Przybyla, Alex Moe and Rebecca Shabad
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks at her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 4, 2019.
Yuri Gripas | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Several Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee pressed Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Monday evening to move forward with an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump as one of his former White House aides planned to defy a congressional subpoena Tuesday.

During a weekly Democratic leadership meeting in Pelosi's office on Capitol Hill, Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Joe Neguse, D-Colo., all argued for launching an impeachment inquiry if former White House counsel Don McGahn failed to testify at a planned hearing Tuesday before the Judiciary Committee, which has the power to initiate impeachment proceedings. McGahn's legal team said Monday evening that he would not appear because Trump instructed him not to comply with the panel's subpoena.

"It was a big debate and was long and very emotional," one source inside the Democratic leadership meeting told NBC News.

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An impeachment inquiry, Cicilline said, could be used as a tool to force the Trump administration to comply with subpoenas for certain witnesses to testify or to provide requested documents.

Raskin, a former constitutional law professor at American University, said that he supports opening an impeachment inquiry so that Democrats could gain access to information they're seeking in their investigations, an argument that other Democrats including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., have recently made. Raskin said, however, that he was not in favor of impeachment.

Impeachment was also raised at a separate weekly meeting Monday evening among Democratic leaders and committee chairs, including by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., another member of the Judiciary Committee.

The debate in both meetings Monday highlighted deepening divides within the party, as more members of the House Democratic Caucus lean toward opening impeachment proceedings and top leaders remain opposed.

"We've always said one thing we'll lead to another as we get information," Pelosi said during the meeting to her members, still wary about the calls to open proceedings that appear to be growing among rank-and-file members. "We still have unexhausted avenues here," she added, referring specifically to the ability for Democrats to use inherent contempt against those who defy subpoenas.

Many Democrats remain frustrated with the administration's efforts to ignore congressional subpoenas, and may now feel under greater pressure to consider impeachment after Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., became the first GOP member of Congress to call for impeachment proceedings against Trump.

"If Don McGahn doesn't testify, it is time to open an impeachment inquiry," Cicilline said in an interview on MSNBC's "Meet the Press Daily" Monday evening.

The chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told reporters that Democrats shouldn't be moving so quickly to impeachment.

"We're going to have a discussion about the best way to proceed but I think we can't go from 0 to 60," Jeffries said, adding "No one is above the law not even the President of the United States of America, not the Attorney General, not the Treasury Secretary. We're going to make sure we teach them that lesson, one way or the other."

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Key Points
  • A federal judge ruled against President Donald Trump on Monday in a lawsuit to block a subpoena from House Democrats for information about his finances.
  • U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta strongly endorsed Congress' broad authority to investigate the president, striking a blow to arguments made by Trump's legal team.
  • While Trump's lawyers had argued that the committee's subpoena did not have a legitimate legislative purpose — and was therefore invalid — Mehta took a more liberal view.