WASHINGTON – A key House investigator said Tuesday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is "absolutely right" to hold back on impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff sided with Pelosi, who said Democrats shouldn't pursue impeachment unless there's overwhelming and bipartisan support for doing so. Her comments to The Washington Post riled some liberals, including new lawmakers who helped flip the chamber to Democratic control.
Together, Pelosi and Schiff's remarks are designed to signal to outspoken Democrats in the House that senior lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled House aren't behind any drive to impeach Trump. The delicate issue returned to the surface after a week of ugly dispute in Pelosi's ranks over how to word a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination.
Schiff, whose committee has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, told reporters an impeachment effort seen as partisan would be doomed.
"A bipartisan process would have to be extra clear and compelling," Schiff told reporters. "I think the speaker is absolutely right. In its absence, an impeachment partisan becomes a partisan exercise doomed for failure. And I see little to be gained by putting the country through that kind of wrenching experience."
In remarks published Monday by The Washington Post, Pelosi made clear that she thinks Trump is not fit for office. But she said based on what's known now and the fact that the country is not behind any effort to remove him, "I'm not for impeachment," she said.
"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," Pelosi said.
It's a departure from her previous comments that Democrats are waiting on special counsel Robert Mueller to lay out findings from his Russia investigation before considering impeachment.
"We're just starting the investigation. And it's not going to stop," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. "We're going to make sure we don't provide sort of an open playbook for people to just continue to sit in the Oval Office and not uphold the Constitution."
Schiff spoke at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Pelosi has long resisted calls to impeach the president, saying it's a "divisive" issue that should only be broached with "great care."
She refused calls when she first held the speaker's gavel, in 2007, to start impeachment proceedings against George W. Bush. Having been a member of Congress during President Bill Clinton's impeachment, she saw the way the public turned on Republicans and helped Clinton win a second term. Heading into the midterm elections, she discouraged candidates from talking up impeachment, preferring to stick to the kitchen table issues that she believes most resonate with voters.
Pelosi has said the House should not pursue impeachment for political reasons, but it shouldn't hold back for political reasons, either. Rather, she says, the investigations need to take their course and impeachment, if warranted, will be clear.
Associated Press Writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.