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Trump and Pelosi's relationship wasn't always this bad
02:23 - Source: CNN

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will answer questions during a live CNN town hall moderated by Jake Tapper, Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.

CNN  — 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement Thursday that the House has “no choice” but to move forward with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump puts the speaker and the President once again on a collision course – a battle that will most likely be settled next year at the ballot box when voters decide whether he should stay in the White House and whether she deserves to keep the majority.

“Today, I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said in a brief address outside her office, the same location where she announced Democrats would open the impeachment inquiry two months ago. “The President leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt once again the election for his own benefit.”

It will be a spectacle to behold: the most powerful woman in the history of American government managing the all-but-certain impeachment of Trump, a man who blazed a political trail throwing out sexist attacks and angrily denouncing allegation after allegation of sexual misconduct from more than a dozen women. Pelosi is set to appear with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday during a 9 p.m. ET CNN town hall.

Pelosi has taken pains this week to emphasize the seriousness of the inquiry to her colleagues – reinforcing that impeachment is a step she is reluctant to take.

But legions of women who loathe Trump will greet her as their hero as she shepherds impeachment through the House, casting a historic strike against his presidency before the inquiry moves to a Senate trial.

Pelosi has been the tip of the spear holding Trump accountable from the earliest days of the women’s marches all the way through this moment when a stunning 61% of American women favor Trump’s impeachment and removal (compared to 40% of men).

Pelosi issued a sharp warning later Thursday to a reporter who asked her a question about whether she hates Trump: “Don’t mess with me.”

“As a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone,” Pelosi said, taking back the microphone after delivering her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill.

“So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that,” she said before walking off the podium.

With Trump as her foil, the House speaker has launched countless memes as the embodiment of female empowerment – from the iconic image of her slipping on her sunglasses as she departed one White House dust-up, to the memorable photograph of her towering above a table of seated men in a bright blue jacket, pointing her finger at the President. Trump tweeted the photo with the caption “Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown.” She responded by making it the cover photo on her Twitter page.

“If you think a woman can’t beat Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi does it every single day,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who’s running to be the Democratic nominee for president next year, said during the last debate, putting a fine point on Pelosi’s role as Trump foe.

The House speaker is now preparing to preside over what many would see as an impossible challenge – executing the likely impeachment of a President while trying not to tear an already polarized nation apart. While whipping the votes for impeachment, she must also present the proceedings to the country in a way that protects 31 of her Democratic members who hold seats in districts that Trump won.

Cognizant of those risks, Pelosi resisted the drumbeat of impeachment from her colleagues for months, stating that it would be far too divisive and “not worth it.” She “crossed the Rubicon,” as she put it, after concluding that Trump betrayed his office by asking Ukraine’s President for help in investigating Joe Biden, his political rival, and his son Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.

But she is now confronting hesitance among American voters, which led her to try to tighten the case against the President after the first impeachment hearings in November by accusing the commander in chief of attempting bribery, a weighty charge that explicitly appears in the Constitution.

The devastating testimony, she said during one of her mid-November news conferences at the Capitol, “corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry” showing “that the President abused his power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into his political rival.” It was, she concluded, “a clear attempt by the President to give himself advantage in the 2020 election.”

She now faces a heavy lift in the House after the two weeks of blockbuster testimony barely nudged public opinion. For a woman whose leadership style is grounded in listening and building consensus, she is staring down an electorate that is still dug in to their familiar partisan corners.

Trump’s approval ratings are steady, and only 50% of Americans say the President should be impeached and removed— a figure unchanged from where CNN/SSRS polling measured it in October.

Pelosi tried to set a somber tone this week as Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff presented his report to the Democratic caucus on Tuesday morning, and the House Judiciary Committee began setting the framework for the articles of impeachment.

She told her colleagues it was a grave and prayerful time, underscoring that each member should be granted the latitude to draw their own conclusions about impeachment.

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Pelosi: 'I want women to see that you do not get pushed around' (2018)
08:03 - Source: CNN

Back in 2018 long before she could have imagined this current scenario, Pelosi told CNN’s Dana Bash while fighting for the gavel that she stays grounded in the notion that women know “how to get it done” and that it’s important to “know your power.”

For many female voters in America, the spectacle that is about to unfold will be about much more than Trump’s maneuverings with Ukraine’s President; the way he has flaunted the constitutionally mandated separation of powers, or his refusal to let his aides cooperate with subpoenas in the congressional inquiry.

For them it will be a condemnation of the broader conduct of a President who has often seemed to wind back the clock on feminist milestones, from his unapologetic defense of his chauvinistic conduct during the 2016 campaign to his rants against powerful women like Hillary Clinton (“such a nasty woman”) and former American Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch (“She’s going to go through some things”).

Pelosi has been cognizant of the image she projects as the female House speaker in the age of Trump: “I want women to see that you do not get pushed around. That you don’t run away from the fight,” she told Bash.

If she brings down the curtain on Trump’s impeachment, it will be the biggest fight of her career – and many women will be watching from the wings.