WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Wednesday that her Democratic caucus would continue to investigate President Donald Trump and has not ruled out an impeachment inquiry for alleged obstruction of justice.
But she did rule out a censure of Trump, or a formal statement of disapproval for his conduct.
“I think censure is just a way out,” Pelosi told a breakfast gathering of reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “If the goods are there, you must impeach.”
Trump has taunted Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry into allegations by special counsel Robert Mueller that the president on 10 occasions sought to interfere, thwart or stop the investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 presidential election.
At one point, Mueller said Trump ordered then-White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, an order McGahn said he ignored.
Trump also recently ordered staff and former aides to defy congressional subpoenas for testimony and documents about his personal businesses, finances, taxes and the Mueller investigation.
On Wednesday, Hope Hicks, a former White House communications director, testified behind closed doors with the House Judiciary Committee about her time in the White House. She was being represented in the hearings by Justice Department lawyers.
Politics and patriotism
Despite Republican opposition to impeachment, and Trump’s insistence he did nothing wrong, Pelosi said the decision on whether to hold an impeachment inquiry “is not about politics.”
“It’s isn’t about partisanship, it’s about patriotism,” she said. “But I do think it is important for the American people to see the purpose of why we would go forward.”
She denied that she was under pressure by a divided caucus to move forward with impeachment, with liberal-leaning members clamoring for an inquiry and more centrist members insisting on a slower, methodical approach.
Pelosi said that the “timing is now” on possible impeachment, but every day the president puts more forward to investigate, it’s “self-evident that he is obstructing justice.”
She said additional information must be weighed, a sentiment echoed Wednesday by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
The speaker said House lawmakers were given access to a less redacted version of the Mueller report, and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., has said he expects Mueller to testify before the committee before the end of summer, if not sooner.
Health care fight continues
Meanwhile, she said health care remains the No. 1 issue among Americans, the concern that ushered in a historic new House consisting of 105 women, with 60 percent of Democratic women who are people of color or LGBTQ.
Pelosi said health care was the main reason she stayed in Congress, and was elected speaker for a historic second time, the only woman ever to wield the gavel.
The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010 in the House and Senate on a party-line vote. Not one Republican voted for the health care reform plan, which became the top accomplishment of President Barack Obama.
Pelosi wrangled the votes for passage in the House, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., passed the sweeping health care bill in the upper chamber.
Although she said she was shocked that Trump was elected president, the “main reason for staying was to protect the Affordable Care Act.”
Said Pelosi: “It wasn’t necessarily just about him. It was about the Affordable Care Act. Because for me, that was the pillar of health and financial security similar to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and that was under threat with this president.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has repeatedly said Democrats are passing a so-called messaging bill that will not be taken up in the Senate, or spending time on impeachment which will not get out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But Pelosi said Republicans had one accomplishment when they controlled the House, Senate and White House: a tax cut that rewarded the top 1 percent in our country and increased the national debt by $2 trillion.
“Sixteen and a half months from now we just have to win. That’s just the way it it. We have to win,” Pelosi said, adding, “public sentiment is everything.”