Speaker Pelosi just laid out the roadmap to impeachment

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) just used a high-profile press conference with three top committee Chairmen to lay out a path to impeachment in the wake of today’s Mueller hearings which revealed detailed evidence of impeachable offenses.

Someone personally familiar with the Speaker’s thinking confirmed to the Washington Press that she did indeed drop a major hint about her roadmap to impeachment today.

“The stronger our case is,” Speaker Pelosi said, explaining why the House needs more evidence through ongoing court cases before entertaining a resolution for an impeachment inquiry, “the worse the Senate will look for letting the President off the hook.” Note, that she didn’t say “may look” or “could look,” but “will look.”

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Pelosi’s final remarks at the press conference (embedded below) are where she left the most obvious breadcrumbs about what is to follow:

“We want to have the strongest possible case, to make a decision as to what path we will go down, and that is not endless terms of time, or endless in terms of the information we want.”

“But if it comes to a point where the ‘cone of silence’ and the obstruction of justice and the cover-up in the White House prevents us from getting that information, that will not prevent us from going forward.”

“In fact, it’s even more grounds to go forward.”

“She is open to it [impeachment],” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA told CNN. She sits on the House Intel committee and is one of Pelosi’s hometown allies.

The Press’ source familiar with Speaker Pelosi’s thinking explained that reading the legislative calendar is key to understanding those remarks, and is most worried about counting votes to engage the process.

The top House Democrat raised the specter in her remarks of Trump’s obstruction of Congress repeating Nixon’s third article of impeachment.

Because Congress is out of session until after Labor Day, that will give the House’s lawyers the next six weeks to push their litigation as far as possible before determining the next steps.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in one of the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena fights two weeks ago. Tonight, its Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said that appellate arguments in New York will be tomorrow.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the House Judiciary panel is also about to file suit to enforce its subpoena against Trump’s former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who refused to fire the Special Counsel and became a cooperating witness in Mueller’s investigation. Lawsuits to compel testimony tend to move faster than the typical civil lawsuit because the issues at hand are narrow and courts have lots of precedents to give Congress broad privileges to gather evidence.

That means we could see a resolution of inquiry right after Labor Day, but a look at the legislative calendar reveals that there are very few days to work with during the September session. Starting in mid-October, there is a nearly uninterrupted eight-week stretch in which an impeachment inquiry could be conducted, then sent to the Senate for a removal trial.

The impeachment inquiry into former President Bill Clinton began in the first week of Congress’ October 1998 session and resulted in ratified articles of impeachment that December.

Right as Speaker Pelosi delivered her press conference, CNN reported that the Speaker had told her caucus that she is not going to whip votes against the impeachment inquiry, a major step in freeing members to declare their support.

House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MA) spoke about his awareness of the judgment of posterity during the press conference

“There comes a point where silence becomes betrayal,” said Rep. Cummings quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while stressing Trump’s litigious obstruction of his committee. “And we refuse to betray generations yet unborn and the American people.”

“We have a duty to delve into the unanswered questions about Russia’s attacks on our democracy,” Speaker Pelosi later tweeted, sharing another excerpt of Cummings remarks.

“Today, the American people heard directly about what the Special Counsel investigation uncovered,” said Chairman Nadler at the press conference, “as to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the president’s cooperation with it and obstruction of justice. Mueller made clear the president is not exonerated.”

“While not flashy, the Judiciary Committee did an excellent job of drawing out the elements of obstruction of justice, even to a criminal standard which is way higher than they have to meet,” says Pace University law professor Mimi Rocah about Mueller’s hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee, about which she was a live commentator on MSNBC. “Even this incredibly fair-minded prosecutor Mueller basically got walked through the elements of criminal acts, and acknowledged them.”

“It doesn’t make for great tv, but if you want to go into what they need to show in an impeachment inquiry for high crimes, it’s there,” says Rocah. “There’s nothing else that they need.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) is a former prosecutor and his two-hour session featured a visibly warmer and more engaged former Special Counsel. Mueller was apparently more free to answers to questions about Putin’s attack on our elections to help President Trump beat Hillary Clinton, which we reported almost exactly three years ago to the day.

“Today the Director [Mueller] outlined in powerful words how Russia intervened massively in our election; systematically in a sweeping fashion,” said Chairman Schiff, “how during that intervention they made multiple approaches to the Trump campaign.” He continued:

And far from shunning that foreign involvement in our election, the Trump campaign welcomed it, made full use of it, put it into its communications and messaging strategy, and lied about it.

Lied about it to cover up. Lied about it to obstruct the investigation into that very attack on our democracy.

Part of what I found powerful about [Mueller’s] testimony today, was not just when he was asked about the law, but when he as asked about the ethics; the morality, the lack of patriotism of this conduct [by Trump].

Rep. Schiff lamented that the president has already announced that he would work with whatever new foreign government arrives to try and illegally help him in 2020.

“Chairman Schiff has former SDNY lawyer Dan Goldman staffing him and I’d like to think that he has some role in helping the Congressman’s stellar preparations for this hearing,” says Rocah. “Schiff seemed super prepared.”

“There was no new evidence today but it was new to about 95 percent of the American people,” said Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD) who is a pro-impeachment member of the House Judiciary Committee. “All of that is in the report, and I think it’s going to gain a whole bunch of new readers after that.”

“Swing district Democrats want the strongest case possible before moving forward on impeachment,” says the source familiar with Speaker Pelosi’s thinking, “and we’re getting closer to that.”

Watch the entire press conference here:

Follow Grant Stern on Twitter @grantstern and check out his first book, Meet the Candidates 2020: Elizabeth Warren and Meet the Candidates 2020: Kamala Harris are both on sale today as part of his Meet the Candidates 2020 Series of voters guides.

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Grant Stern

Editor at Large

Grant Stern is a columnist for the Washington Press. He's also mortgage broker, writer, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida.


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