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Congressional Democrats remain conflicted about whether to pursue impeachment against President Trump. When asked about her plans investigating the president, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responded that “what we’re doing is winning in court.” Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest from Capitol Hill and why “there is so much pressure” on Democratic lawmakers over this issue.
Democrats on Capitol Hill are still grappling with questions of whether to pursue impeachment against President Trump.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was asked today why she supports congressional investigations into the president, but not a formal impeachment inquiry.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:
So the question you ask, do we get more by having an inquiry? Some say yes, some say no. Some say…
If a majority of your caucus — if a majority of your caucus wants to go forward with an impeachment inquiry, would you go for it?
It's not even close in our caucus.
But, eventually, if it gets…
Well, you know what? Why are we speculating on hypotheticals? What we're doing is winning in court. The path that we're on is a path that, I think — look, I want to tell you something.
You said you're not on a path to…
There is nothing as much — there is nothing as divisive in our country, in my view, than impeachment.
And our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins, is here with me now.
So, Lisa, we have just heard what Speaker Pelosi is saying. So tell us, what exactly are the House Democrats doing or not doing today?
Well, let's talk about the resolution that the House passed today.
This is a resolution that Democrats refer to as civil contempt, but what it really does is, it gives Democrats House committee chairmen the power to move forward with civil lawsuits. They want to do that in order to try to compel testimony from a court from the witnesses who have so far refused to talk to them.
On that list, at the top of that list is former White House counsel Don McGahn, but also on the list is the current attorney general himself, Bill Barr. And, basically, Judy, Democrats like this because it will give this power to committee chairmen. Republicans say that's exactly the problem, that it's too much power in committee chairmen's hands.
It's not clear when these committee chairmen will file the lawsuits, but I'm sold they're interested in doing it quickly.
So, what's the plan the Democrats have?
And what is this — what are these documents that they now are going to have permission to see that have to do with the Mueller investigation?
I was able to do some good reporting on these documents. These documents are available starting today only to members of the House Judiciary Committee and only in a secure setting. They cannot take them out of the Department of Justice.
Now, also, we don't know how many documents there will be. They will be given to these members in sort tranches. They won't get all of them now, because the Department of Justice has to go through and make sure executive privilege is honored, all of those kinds of things. But they can start looking at them now.
They're not sure what's in there. They think perhaps interview transcripts, other evidence that led to the Mueller report. We will find out more maybe in days ahead.
As to the Democrats' plan, Judy, it now includes looking at these documents, holding more hearings, probably issuing more subpoenas, and probably, because of that, going to court more often. So it is a long-term plan, and there is no plan for formal impeachment inquiries right now.
So let's talk about the politics.
What are the Democrats thinking in terms of impeachment, both from inside the caucus, what the members are thinking, but also what they're hearing from their constituents?
That's the thing. There is so much pressure on many of these members, especially in the more liberal, more Democratic districts.
They say they are getting hundreds of phone calls from their voters saying, we would like this president impeached. What are you waiting for? It's very different in moderate districts. Swing districts, where Democrats may be vulnerable, they're hearing impeachment as well, but they're hearing that that perhaps that could be a negative, that Democrats are moving too fast, look like they're vindictive.
But this pressure also is coming from committee chairmen, who are frustrated because they haven't been able to get the answers that they want. In all, Judy, they're in a difficult place right now. They're waiting this out.
I did see some discipline today, though. Those who want impeachment inquiries seem to be cooling down a little bit, going with Pelosi's plan, which is just to investigate right now.
But I saw — I heard this strange quote from one freshman representative, Dean Phillips. He told me, formality. Formal impeachment proceedings, that's all relative.
I don't know what that means. It just shows they're having trouble really explaining this to some people.
Well, and, as the speaker said, the country is divided on this.
Lisa Desjardins, thank you.
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