You Can't Have It Both Ways

Screenshot: CNN

Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic caucus held a closed-door, no-aides meeting this morning, after a wave of Democrats publicly broke with her yesterday to support an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Pelosi, however, apparently wasn’t having it.

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Speaking to reporters after the meeting concluded, Pelosi called it “very positive” and praised the House committee chairs who gave updates on the status of their various Trump-related investigations, which Politico reported this morning would include Judiciary chair Jerry Nadler, Intelligence chair Adam Schiff, Oversight chair Elijah Cummings, Financial Services chair Maxine Waters, Ways and Means chair Richard Neal, and Foreign Affairs chair Eliot Engel.

“Would you believe that it’s important to follow the facts? We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States,” Pelosi continued. “And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up. In a cover-up. And that was the nature of the meeting.”

And then, after directly accusing the president of actively doing crimes, the Speaker of the House just...walked away.

Politico reported that inside the caucus, it was obviously more tense than Pelosi made it out to be. From the Politico report:

“Betting everything on the election is a historic mistake,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), a proponent of impeachment.

“Please don’t raise money off your impeachment stance,” Pelosi said after Huffman spoke.

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Pelosi’s allies, most of whom are ardently opposed to impeachment, predictably made the meeting out to be a big victory. “There is a growing number of members who have publicly articulated a desire to move toward an impeachment inquiry but as far as I can tell the number is somewhere between 20 and 25,” House Democratic Conference chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries told Politico (It’s actually up to 28, according to the Hill).

“There are 239 members of the House Democratic Caucus,” Jeffries added, “which means the overwhelming majority continue to believe that we should proceed along the course that we’re on right now.”

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The elephant in the room, however, remains the fact that the House leadership continues to forcefully accuse Trump of breaking the law, while even more forcefully arguing against actually doing anything about it. Why? Pelosi denies it’s political, but in a separate item in Playbook on Wednesday morning, Politico reported that Pelosi’s allies are convinced that if an impeachment inquiry is started, the Democrats will lose both the House and the presidency in 2020. (If that’s because impeachment backfired on Newt Gingrich, it’s probably worth pointing out that the Republicans actually kept the House in 1998 and then won the presidency two years later.)

Regardless, this is a completely untenable situation. Nancy Pelosi can’t have it both ways, and continue to call Trump a criminal while pleading with her caucus to pump the brakes as he continues to order members of his administration to defy subpoenas. Eventually—and it’s looking sooner rather than later—she will have to choose, or risk something even more damaging to her: looking completely ineffective.

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