Washington (AFP) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, America's most powerful Democrat, said in remarks published Monday that she does not support impeaching Donald Trump, arguing the Republican president is "just not worth it."
"I'm not for impeachment," Pelosi told The Washington Post in a wide-ranging interview, the strongest signal yet that the Democratic leadership is deeply hesitant about taking such an explosive step to remove a sitting president.
"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.
"And he's just not worth it."
Trump and his associates face multiple investigations, including one headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that is looking into Russian influence on the 2016 US election and potential collusion between Trump's team and Moscow.
And in explosive congressional testimony late last month, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen branded the president a conman and cheat and sought to implicate his ex-boss in multiple crimes.
Even as she waves off calls to impeach Trump, Pelosi -- who in January began her second stint as speaker after Democrats won back the House in midterm elections -- stressed that she does not believe he is fit to lead the nation.
"I don't think he is" fit to be president, she said in the interview. "I mean, ethically unfit. Intellectually unfit. Curiosity-wise unfit."
The investigations and related testimony like Cohen's may or may not produce evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors on the president's part.
Some rank-and-file House Democrats, like freshmen liberal Rashida Tlaib, are keen to being impeachment proceedings. Their ranks are sure to grow if more serious evidence of presidential wrongdoing emerges.
Others remain concerned that for now, an effort to oust Trump before the election might backfire, energizing an angry Republican base and antagonizing voters Democrats would need in the next election.
Some in the party would prefer a political battle against Trump at the ballot box, rather than an impeachment effort waged in Congress.
And with the Senate in Republican control, Trump's ouster would be far from assured.
Pelosi pointed to the excruciating process of president Bill Clinton's impeachment by the House in 1998, and his subsequent acquittal by the Senate.
"That was horrible for the country," she said.
Congressman Jerry Nadler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said earlier this month that while it was "very clear" that Trump has obstructed justice, "impeachment is a long way down the road."
Nadler's committee launched a sprawling new investigation last week that is sure to take months, demanding documents from 81 persons or entities connected to Trump.
But he told ABC News that ahead of any impeachment proceedings, lawmakers would need to convince the American public that members were "not just trying to... reverse the results of the last election."