In a Wednesday meeting with House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and other Democrats who have been on the front line against Donald Trump’s congressional obstruction, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, “I don’t want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison.” But even though sending Trump to prison requires that he first be put out of office, Pelosi continued to resist calls to begin an impeachment inquiry.
Until the last two weeks, Nadler had been one of the Democratic leaders who had joined Pelosi in trying to downplay the possibility of impeachment. However, after the White House refused to turn over documents, moved to place the entire Mueller report under executive privilege, and repeatedly ordered current and former staffers to defy congressional subpoenas, Nadler asked Pelosi for the freedom to begin an inquiry in his committee. According to Politico, he made a second request on Wednesday, seeking the power such an inquiry would provide to get around most claims of privilege.
But Pelosi continues to insist that “strong public support” and “bipartisan backing” are needed before any impeachment proceedings can begin—a position that ignores the possibility that opening an inquiry may be exactly what’s needed to generate that widespread support. As with so many recent meetings, this one appears to have ended with Pelosi declaring that “all options are still on the table,” but that she still prefers to see Trump unseated in the next election and left to face potential prosecution.
The meeting followed statements from Nadler that he was “confident” that Robert Mueller will appear to testify before his committee. While Nadler stated that he was still willing to subpoena Mueller if needed, his repeated assertion that Mueller would appear “soon” suggests that negotiations are progressing with the now former special counsel. The sticking point in these negotiations appears to be how much of his testimony Mueller is willing to deliver in public. Mueller has stated that he was willing to deliver an opening statement, then move behind closed doors for questioning. But according to Nadler, “We’re not willing to do that. We want him to testify openly. I think the American people need that. I think, frankly, it’s his duty to the American people, and we’ll make that happen.”
It’s only been a week since Mueller made an unexpected personal appearance that galvanized viewers and kicked the possibility of impeachment into high gear. A widely-viewed appearance before the committee could raise that energy even higher—and the best way to do that is to make his appearance the first round in an impeachment inquiry.
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