- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dramatically shifted her position on impeachment over the last nine months.
- On Thursday, after weeks of public hearings, Pelosi officially announced House Democrats would draft articles of impeachment.
- After months of resisting the loud pro-impeachment voices in her caucus, Pelosi’s rhetoric on the momentous move has grown sharp and decisive. She’s arguing that she has only one option.
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Nine months ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she was “not for impeachment.”
Pushing to oust President Donald Trump just wasn’t “worth” the damage it would do to the country, unless support for it was bipartisan.
“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 told The Washington Post Magazine in a March interview.
She added, “He’s just not worth it.”
She spent the months around the release of Mueller’s report on the Trump campaign and 2016 election interference maintaining a hesitance on impeachment and pushing back on the increasingly boisterous pro-impeachment voices in her caucus.
On Thursday, after weeks of dramatic public hearings, Pelosi officially announced House Democrats would draft articles of impeachment, indicating her confidence that she has the votes to impeach the third US president in history.
“The President leaves us no choice but to act, because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit,” she formally declared during her Thursday press conference.
But Pelosi’s rhetoric turned passionate when a reporter subsequently asked her whether she hates Trump. After months of dispassionate evidence-gathering and demurring on impeachment, Pelosi didn’t respond well to the implication that she’s been swept away by emotion.
“As a Catholic, I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me,” she said. “I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love and always pray for the president. And I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time. So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
‘A vote-counter, if nothing else’
What concerns Pelosi more than anything is ensuring that her caucus is firmly behind her. Better still, she wants the American people behind her.
She’s constantly referring to Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote that “public sentiment is everything … without it nothing can succeed.”
As Democratic calls for impeachment escalated in late spring following special counsel Robert Mueller’s public testimony, Pelosi still wouldn’t budge. She noted that fewer than 40 members in her 238-member caucus were calling for an impeachment probe at the time. The Mueller report found 11 instances of possible obstruction by Trump but refused to say whether he should be charged.
“Many constituents want to impeach the president, but we want to do what is right and what gets results,” she said on May 29, repeating, “what gets results.”
As many in her party began treating impeachment as inevitable, Pelosi was concerned that more moderate lawmakers, including the many who flipped red districts in 2018, weren’t on board.
“Nancy Pelosi is a vote-counter, if nothing else — she’s a master strategist,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, told the crowd at Netroots Nation in July. “She’s not going to go there unless we are able to build the pressure for it.”
Pelosi cemented her impeachment strategy in September, when she says “everything changed” with the news that Trump had repeatedly pressured the Ukrainian government to intervene in the 2020 election.
As evidence emerged of Trump’s demands that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, public support for an impeachment inquiry shot up.
In the week after The Wall Street Journal broke the story of Trump’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president, support for an inquiry rose from 37% to 47% of registered voters, according to Quinnipiac University polling. By early October, many polls showed a majority of Americans supported the probe.
A September 23rd op-ed in The Washington Post co-authored by seven moderate freshman Democrats calling for an impeachment inquiry put the most powerful Democrat in Washington over the edge.
But even as the impeachment inquiry was underway in October, she expressed concerns that Democrats would lose the American people in the process.
“How much drama can the American people handle?” she said in an interview with The Atlantic in late October. “Where does the law of diminishing returns set in? Where is the value added not worth the time?”
But Pelosi’s finally been backed into a corner.
“Speaker Pelosi never wanted to do this until Trump brought it on himself,” Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist and top spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, told Insider. “No one wants to pull a fire alarm in a crowded movie theater but people know it’s the right thing to do if there is a fire.”