WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to simmer down the intensifying calls to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday by stressing patience and highlighting that only a small number of Democrats are calling for the move.
Pelosi's comments came hours after special counsel Robert Mueller offered his first public statements about his nearly two-year investigation of the president and Russian election interference during the 2016 cycle, telling the public that charging Trump with obstruction was "not an option" because of a Justice Department policy against prosecuting a sitting president. During his comments, Mueller also announced his departure from his post and the Justice Department.
Mueller's comments were seen by some Democrats as an invitation for Congress to hold the president accountable by starting an impeachment inquiry. But Mueller's remarks did not appear to change things for Pelosi, who for weeks has tried to rein in impeachment calls. Speaking at an event at the Commonwealth Club of California, Pelosi stressed that while impeachment was not off the table, the House was not there yet.
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"Nothing is off the table but we do want to make such a compelling case, such an ironclad case that even the Republican Senate, which at the time seems to be not an objective jury, will be convinced," Pelosi told the crowd.
She said she was "proud" of House Democrats, calling them "conscientious" about how "they've reached their decisions" over whether they believe impeachment proceedings are warranted, but she noted it was only a small number of lawmakers who at this point have called for the drastic move.
"I think it's like 35 of them out of 238, maybe its 38 out of 238, have said they wanted to be outspoken on impeachment and many of them are reflecting their views as well as those of their constituents," Pelosi said. "Yes, there are some, and the press makes more of a fuss about the 38 than the 200, who are over half of the Congress."
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But she noted it's not just lawmakers who are talking about impeachment: "Many constituents want to impeach the president, but we want to do what's right and what gets results."
Throughout her remarks, Pelosi compared the ongoing investigations and discussions about impeachment to that of the Watergate scandal that took down Richard Nixon's presidency and led to his resignation in 1974.
She noted that the Watergate investigation "took months and months" and Republicans and Democrats were not on the same page at first.
"The case has to be very compelling to the American people," Pelosi said. "We're legislating, we're investigating and we are litigating, and we're going to as we go down the path, make a decision based on the strongest possible case to get the best results for the American people."
For weeks, Pelosi has tried to tap down calls within her party to start impeachment proceedings. Those calls have only intensified over the weeks since the release of Mueller's report and Trump's defiant attempts to block the House from investigating him. Tensions reached a new level last week after Trump walked out of an infrastructure meeting at the White House with top Democrats, telling Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that he wouldn't work with them on shared priorities such as infrastructure and bringing down the cost of prescription drugs unless they abandoned investigations into his presidency.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pelosi stresses only a small number of Democrats are calling to impeach Trump, asks for patience