House Democrats huddled Wednesday as Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to beat back a growing revolt over her oft-stated resistance to the idea of impeaching President Donald Trump. The meeting came after days of increased public willingness by high-ranking Democratic leaders to suggest that impeachment is the right move and now a question of when, not if.
“A growing majority of our caucus believes that impeachment is going to be inevitable,” Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, told CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday morning.
Amid that rising furor, Pelosi continues to stick by her original assertion that impeachment is not the right move for her party – at least not right now. So why does Pelosi believe so strongly that impeachment is a mistake – even in the face of steady resistance from the White House to any and all requests made by House Democrats as they investigate the administration?
Here are five possible reasons:
1. The public doesn’t (really) want it.
A May CNN-SSRS showed that just 37% of Americans want Trump impeached while 59% disagreed with such a course of action. That same poll showed that 44% say Democrats are going too far in investigating the President – an increase from 38% saying so in March. (One in four voters said Democrats in Congress were doing too little to investigate Trump while 28% said they were doing about the right amount.)
2. He’ll never be impeached anyway.
It takes two to tango on impeachment. And while the Democratic majority in the House could probably impeach Trump tomorrow, the 53 Republican senators who control the majority in the upper chamber have shown no signs of cracking in their support for Trump. If anything, Trump’s support among that cadre has grown stronger in recent weeks – following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that concluded it “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in the election interference activities” and did not offer a recommendation on whether Trump obstructed justice in the probe. Pelosi knows that, barring some cataclysmic development, the Senate isn’t going to convict Trump on the articles of impeachment – which makes the House impeaching Trump purely a symbolic move, with no actual teeth.
3. It turns Trump into a victim.
Trump, as had been demonstrated time and time again, loves to play the victim. He’s the target of a “Deep State” conspiracy. He’s unfairly treated by the media. He was the subject of a nearly two-year-long “witch hunt” at the hands of Mueller. Impeaching Trump in the House – without a puncher’s chance of the Senate doing the same – hands Trump the ability to say that Democrats hate him so much that they are unfairly targeting him – and being derelict in their duties to the country. Trump is, in fact, already rolling out that argument: “The Democrats are getting ZERO work done in Congress,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning. “All they are focused on is trying to prove the Mueller Report wrong, the Witch Hunt!”
4. It (even more) badly divides the country.
Remember that Pelosi was in Congress back when Republicans in the House impeached Bill Clinton. (Clinton was acquitted in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Sound familiar?) “I’m not for impeachment,” Pelosi told The Washington Post back in March. “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. And he’s just not worth it.”
5. People don’t actually vote on it.
Pelosi was adamant during the 2018 midterm campaign that Democratic candidates spend their time talking about health care (and the Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act), not Trump’s latest tweets. “Health care was on the ballot and health care won,” Pelosi said in the immediate aftermath of the election, which restored a Democratic majority in the House. “We won because from the beginning, we focused on healthcare.”
That is the blueprint Pelosi wants all Democrats to follow in 2020. Poll after poll proves her right. Health care and immigration typically top the list of voters’ beliefs about the most important issues facing the country. Impeachment is rarely mentioned. (Sidebar: In a March CNN poll, a total of 0 respondents said that the Mueller probe was the most important issue related to their 2020 vote. ZERO.)
Despite her misgivings, Pelosi is also a politician – and one of the best judges of the mood of her colleagues in modern political history. If her current let’s-just-hold-your-horses position on impeaching Trump becomes untenable for her own politics, she will likely give in. After all, Pelosi is far from a Trump defender, and for her own personal politics, being on the side of impeaching him yesterday would be a total winner.
But she isn’t focused on herself at the moment. She’s focused on keeping control of the House in 2020 and winning back the White House. Impeaching Trump endangers both of those ambitions. Which is why she is holding the line against impeachment.