WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused President Donald Trump of trying to goad Democrats into pursuing impeachment but said her caucus is not taking the bait.
She said Trump's vow not to work with Democrats on shared priorities such as rebuilding the nation's infrastructure was rooted in frustration that "the House Democratic caucus is not on the path to impeachment and that’s where he wants us to be.”
Pelosi, who spoke at a news conference on Capitol Hill, said she believed Trump is "crying out" for impeachment and when he realized Democrats would not go that route "that’s why he flipped yesterday." Trump walked out of a meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday and said he would not work with House Democrats unless Pelosi suspends several investigations lawmakers have launched into his presidency and finances.
Pelosi also said she was concerned about the president's well-being "and the well-being of the United States of America."
Trump repeatedly Wednesday denied "raging" at the meeting and accused the Democrats and press of mischaracterizing his mood, which he said was "extremely calm."
Trump doubled down his defense of his temperament during a Thursday meeting at the White House.
In a highly unusual move, Trump turned to several members of his staff and asked them to vouch for his calmness in the meeting. Senior advisor Kellyanne Conway, White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp and Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, all described the president as “very calm” during the meeting. Trump also described himself as "an extremely stable genius.”
Neither the White House nor the president have denied he walked out of the meeting scheduled with Democrats on Wednesday without giving them a chance to speak. Trump then called and hastily arranged news availability in the Rose Garden to say he would not work with Democrats on other issues until they end their investigations into his campaign and finances.
"When the 'extremely stable genius' starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues," Pelosi responded shortly after the press conference.
When the “extremely stable genius” starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues. https://t.co/tfWVkj9CLT— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) May 23, 2019
"I wish him and his family, his administration and staff would have an intervention for the good of the country,” she said earlier Thursday.
Later when a reporter brought up the intervention, Pelosi appeared to be joking when the 25th Amendment was brought up during an exchange with a reporter. The 25th amendment outlines a procedure if the president is removed from office.
"That's a good idea," she said. "I'll take it up with my caucus, not that they haven't been thinking about it."
Democrats have been divided over the issue of impeachment following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. They have accused Trump of trying thwart that probe. Despite a growing clamor to begin an impeachment inquiry, Pelosi has sought to tamp down the calls, telling Democrats to focus on fact finding first.
But Pelosi has not ruled out impeachment, either.
On Wednesday she said "this president is obstructing justice and he is engaged in a cover up and that could be an impeachable offense."
She followed those remarks Thursday saying the investigations "may take us to a place that’s unavoidable, on impeachment, or not. But we're not at that place.”
Over the last few days a growing number of senior Democrats, including some of Pelosi's allies, have started to say it was time to open an impeachment inquiry. Others have said they personally aren't there but they are moving in that direction.
“I have a feeling that this lawless president is going to force us there,’’ Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., said Thursday. “I don’t think we’re there right this minute. I think it’s important that we go through the process of the courts.’’ Bass is the chair of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus and on the Judiciary Committee, the panel that would handle impeachment.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, said he wants to wait for the courts to rule, but there’s “tremendous’’ pressure from his constituents to act on impeachment.
“I think many of them are very frustrated with the president,” he said, adding that many were around when former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton went through impeachment proceedings.
“Basically, what they’re saying is, ‘This is no comparison. This is worse…’ So they can’t understand why we aren’t going that route.”
Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, who has long led the push to impeach Trump, said he expects some colleagues will get an earful about impeachment when they return to their districts.
“People are getting a better understanding of what this is about,’’ Green said Thursday.
Some Republicans believe any impeachment proceedings by Democrats would backfire on the party in the 2020 presidential election because many voters have been telling pollsters they are more focused on kitchen-table issues like jobs and healthcare than on the investigations of Trump.
Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the GOP whip, said there’s no basis for impeachment.
“It’s an embarrassing pattern that she has to attack the president to appease her radical base because she won’t give them impeachment,’’ he said. “And they’re playing this little game inside their conference and it keeps bubbling up and it’s ultimately going to come to a head.”
Contributing: Deborah Barfield Berry and John Fritze
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pelosi: Trump is 'crying out' for impeachment but House Democrats are not on that path for now