Bucking calls from many Democrats to try to remove President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flatly stated she is "not for impeachment" in an interview with The Washington Post published Monday.
The 17-term California Democrat recalled the divisiveness of President Bill Clinton's impeachment, which she said was "horrible for the country." She said she would not be willing to go through that again without "overwhelming and bipartisan" justification.
"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. And he’s just not worth it," Pelosi told The Post.
Pelosi's position may not be popular with the Democratic base. Two-thirds of Democratic voters say Congress should get the ball rolling on impeachment, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
Tamping down impeachment talk could be more shrewd from the perspective of the 2020 election. Though the same poll found two-thirds of all voters say Trump committed crimes before taking office, just 35 percent of them favor impeachment. Sixty percent of independent voters – who could determine the election's outcome – were against impeachment, and 30 percent were for it.
Pelosi and her deputies have said any impeachment talk should wait on the results of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Her comments to The Post contained no reference to Mueller.
"She’s laid down a number of conditions. She says it has to be bipartisan, the evidence has to be overwhelming, which is what I’ve been saying," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., told ABC News. "I’ve stated my position. It has to be enough evidence that you think you’ll get substantial support from the opposition voters."
Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., agreed that impeachment "has to be a bipartisan effort, and right now it’s not there."
"I get the impression this matter will only be resolved at the polls," Cummings said.
"We have to take our time with respect to our oversight function and wait for the Mueller report to be completed before we decide what’s the appropriate road to go down," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told Politico.
At least one high-ranking Democrat pushed back at Pelosi's comment.
The chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said Trump's impeachment is "inevitable."
"To me, it's not a question of whether, it's a question of when," Yarmuth told CNN. "And probably right now is not the right time, but I think at some point, it's going to be inevitable.
"I believe that the impeachment power is in the Constitution for a reason, and if we don't use it, then it becomes meaningless, particularly when you have a president who has committed crimes while in office," he said. Yarmuth told CNN the process is underway in the form of House investigations into the administration and the president's businesses.
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who filed articles of impeachment against Trump on the first day of the new Congress in January, said the House investigations "will be a prelude" to impeachment. Sherman noted that Pelosi did not rule out impeachment "if the public is clamoring for it," the Associated Press reported.
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, told Politico the decision on whether to impeach "will be driven solely by the facts."
"If the facts require us to initiate removing the president, we are obligated to do it. If the facts don't support it, we won't," Cicilline said.
The party's liberal wing has generally advocated for impeachment. Freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., used a vulgarity in a vow to remove Trump after she took office.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told The Hill that although she believes Trump has met the bar for impeachment "multiple times," she would defer to Pelosi's "demonstrated leadership that takes all kind of factors into account."
"Legally, I don't think it's something that can ever be 100 percent off the table, but if that's how she feels right now, I respect that," Ocasio-Cortez said. She reserved her right to disagree with the speaker.
"I think all of us have a responsibility to advocate our viewpoints," she told The Hill. "You know, this is how the speaker feels, but the whole point of our democracy is that if we disagree, we have a responsibility to air out our arguments as to why and take it into consideration."
Billionaire Tom Steyer, who funded a campaign pushing for Trump's impeachment, rejected Pelosi's position.
"Speaker Pelosi thinks 'he’s just not worth it'? Well, is defending our legal system 'worth it'?" Steyer said in a statement. "Is doing what’s right ‘worth it'? Or shall America just stop fighting for our principles and do what’s politically convenient."
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said she agreed with Pelosi's decision not to push for impeachment.
"I don’t think it should have ever been on the table," she said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Trump 'not worth' the 'divisive' costs of impeachment