Nancy Pelosi has urged caution to those Democrats pushing for the immediate impeachment of Donald Trump, a move that puts her at odds with a number of high profile and influential members of her party.
As Democrats consider whether or not to pursue impeachment, perhaps the most consequential decision the party will take over the next 18 months other than its selection of a presidential candidate, the House speaker said it was “important to know that the facts regarding holding the president accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings”.
While condemning Mr Trump’s “highly unethical and unscrupulous behaviour” as revealed in Robert Mueller’s report, Ms Pelosi warned her party not to become overly obsessed with the specific way it responded, as the party prepared for congressional hearings on the president.
“While our views range from proceeding to investigate the findings of the Mueller report or proceeding directly to impeachment, we all firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth,” Ms Pelosi wrote to colleagues ahead of a conference call.
Later, in a call to members of the party who were scattered across the country during a two-week recess, Ms Pelosi and other senior leaders said they had no plans to immediately open impeachment proceedings, according to the Washington Post.
Ms Pelosi, the most senior elected Democrat and considered a highly skilled political tactician, has long believed the best way of dealing with Mr Trump is to defeat him in 2020, rather than seeking to remove him through congressional censure.
Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, she urged members of her party to talk about issues such as healthcare and the economy, which polls suggest are of key importance to most voters, rather than impeachment.
Following the publication of the Mueller report, which cleared the president of colluding with Russia but indicated many instances when he sought to interference with the probe itself, some in her party want to try and immediately proceed with impeachment hearings.
Amongst the mot high profile of those members are New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, senator Elizabeth Warren, who is among those seeking the 2020 nomination, and Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who last month tabled a measure to impeach the president.
“The Mueller report lays out facts showing that a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election to help Donald Trump and Donald Trump welcomed that help. Once elected, Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into that attack,” Ms Warren tweeted last week.
“Mueller put the next step in the hands of Congress: ‘Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice’. The correct process for exercising that authority is impeachment.”
Remembering the backlash some Republicans faced after they sought to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998, Ms Pelosi has said any censure of Mr Trump would need to have widespread bipartisan support, a situation unlikely to emerge.
In her letter to her colleagues, according to Roll Call, Ms Pelosi added: “As we proceed to uncover the truth and present additional needed reforms to protect our democracy, we must show the American people we are proceeding free from passion or prejudice, strictly on the presentation of fact.”