Prominent Liberals in the House, eager for President Nancy Pelosi's opposition to President Trump's dismissal, appeared on the verge of making a major breakthrough last night.
The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a key ally of Pelosi and the man who would preside over the hearings, was preparing to overthrow the leader of his party and join the pro-dismissal movement.
Pelosi moved quickly. She summoned her senior lieutenants to a late-night meeting and drew up a plan whereby six party leaders, speaking in unison, would clearly explain to the president why dismissing Trump was a terrible idea.
"Republicans are simmering their own juice," Pelosi told rep Jerrold Nadler (DN.Y.), saying the majority of the Democratic caucus did not support the impeachment and that the party should devote time to call the Republicans to the defense of their party. with a president flouting the Constitution, according to Democrats and other senior officials who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to freely describe what happened.
Nadler left the room that night and did not publicly approve the dismissal. "Indictment is a political act, and you can not remove a president if the American people do not support it," he said.
While pressure has been mounting in recent weeks on House Democrats to act more aggressively against Trump, Pelosi has demonstrated the firm hold she has over her caucus – canceling, at least for the moment, the pressure for dismissal. It is a command that, according to her colleagues, is inspired by a deep respect for the political wisdom of the most powerful woman in American politics – and by the fear that her calling into question poses a serious risk to her career.
In January, Pelosi blocked two rebel leaders who had tried to ban her from the presidency, but the pact she had reached to retrieve the hammer prevented reprisals. And seasoned legislators remember very well how she pushed back former Democratic legislators Jane Harman (D-Calif.) And John Dingell (D-Mich.), Two occasional thorns by her side, in their quest for presidencies , offers a lot of people considered a revenge to challenge her. vision or authority.
"It's much better to be with her than against her," said Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), A Pelosi antagonist who eventually supported him. "It does not make things easy, that's for sure."
"First, you want to be part of the team and support the leader's position, but secondly, you worry about yourself and yourself. . . what can happen if you do not follow, "said another Pelosi spokesman, representative Kurt Schrader (D-Ore), who summarized members' concerns if they defy Pelosi.
The reluctance to oppose the speaker, according to interviews with more than 20 lawmakers and collaborators, has undermined the push for deposition despite growing support for Trump's ouster from the party's liberal base and several 2020 presidential candidates. A NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday revealed that more Democrat voters supported impeachment – an increase of 48% from 30% last month – but the country was divided , opposition Republicans and independents.
Until then, supporters of the caucus dismissal did not want to call Pelosi by name or mobilize help to start the proceedings. As a result, the campaign has slowed down, a minority of just over 60 deputies belonging to the caucus supporting the impeachment, at least for the moment.
Pelosi's long-time allies say the fear factor is greatly inflated. Instead, they say it's more than members respect the California Democrat, who has been leading them for 16 years and understands the political consequences of the removal.
"I do not think we can do more division than remove a US president, so you have to do it very carefully," Pelosi said in an interview with CNN. "It has to be about the truth and the facts to bring you to any decision that has to be there."
Pelosi's mid-term election strategy of focusing on health care rather than the president helped the Democrats win the majority last year, while the party won in December. districts where Trump had triumphed in 2016. Pelosi knew that Democrats could lose these seats – and their majority – in a retrograde way. on the dismissal.
"She's the smartest strategist we've ever had. . . . People do not want to guess because she's been right on so many fronts, "said Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), A long-time Pelosi ally, who has been entrusted with the task. speaker on the dismissal.
Admittedly, the impeachment procedure is far from over and could become more difficult for Pelosi to handle, while Trump repeatedly challenges congressional investigators.
Pelosi "is on course, but it's fragile, because we're sort of an event, an explosive testimony, a Trump action away from the collapse of this dam," said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va .).
But even though most of her caucus calls for dismissal, Pelosi's allies predict she will resist the pressure.
The Pelosi maneuver
In recent weeks, Pelosi has been working behind the scenes to stifle the pro-impeachment movement of his caucus with comments and announcements scheduled at a strategic time – and urging his members to line up.
When James E. Clyburn (DS.C.), the majority whip in the House, said that destitution was unavoidable when appearing on television in early June, Pelosi 's staff said it was not the first time they were in office. is mobilized quickly, calling his office and asking his staff to let Clyburn go back, according to congressional officials familiar with these conversations.
When other senior Democrats began to advocate for TV removal, Pelosi made sure that at least some knew she was unhappy. At a recent private meeting, she criticized the representative David N. Cicilline (DR.I.), member of the Judiciary Committee, for saying that she wanted him to soften his speech on the destitution and focuses more on the legislative agenda, other senior officials.
Pelosi refused to discuss private conversations.
Legislators in favor of and against dismissal believe that recent court decisions confirming the subpoenas to Democracy have strengthened Pelosi's argument that his strategy is working. And the fact that members are torn about what is right means that many are content to postpone their leader.
But timely announcements have also played a major role in easing tensions. When the clamor of dismissal escalates as a result of explosive acts over Trump's defiance of Congress, Pelosi was keen to echo the frustration of a pro-dismissal base by accusing Trump of "hiding" or saying that he should be "in prison". Her allies say that these remarks protect her while she is blocking the impeachment.
Pelosi also made a conscious effort to "let the air out of the ball before it goes out," according to an assistant. Last week, she gave the green light to a civil contempt vote in the House to give frustrated members the means to express themselves.
On Thursday, after Trump told ABC News that he would be willing to take opposition research from a foreign country in the future, Pelosi was also ready to answer: "Few weeks earlier, it had instructed its committees to prepare legislation obliging all candidates to report such cases. contacts with the FBI. She discussed the legislation at a press conference, once again highlighting journalists' questions about the impeachment.
The effectiveness of Pelosi has been partly planned. At the end of May, after Robert S. Mueller III had declared that he had not exonerated the president and unleashed another storm of dismissal, Pelosi had asked his senior management to go to a meeting prepared Monday with counter-arguments on dismissal, according to Democrats and other senior officials.
During the build-up on June 3, Pelosi went around the room to ask his main allies what they thought of the dismissal; all agree with it. The caucus chair, Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Even suggested that the courage of the members would be to resist the grassroots call for dismissal.
Supporters of dismissal have not moved away.
Pelosi's attachment to his caucus contrasts with his Republican predecessors. Former speakers Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) And John Boehner (R-Ohio) have often faced fierce public resistance from their ranks and opponents that have hampered their effectiveness.
The conservative group House Freedom Caucus not only broke up with Ryan, but routinely bypassed his leadership and appealed to Trump for what they wanted, reducing his leadership. Before Ryan, Boehner was faced with the same conservative critics who threatened to overthrow him because of his pragmatism, forcing him to resign.
While the Conservatives were wary of Boehner and Ryan, the Democratic base considers Pelosi as one of their loyal Republicans, who inspired him by attacking him as a Liberal boogeyman during election campaigns, said Mike Sommers , former head of Boehner's staff.
"I think she's pretty much the only person who can handle their caucus right now," he said. "She has an unparalleled support base within the Democratic caucus."
Pelosi tightened his hold on the caucus by canceling a group of rebels who tried to prevent him from becoming a speaker for the second time in more than a decade and emerging stronger after a confrontation with Trump in January on government funding.
Pelosi's decision to punish her opponents, as she did for the committee's terms, was not the first time she had used uncompromising tactics. In 2006, Pelosi refused to appoint Harman as chair of the House's Intelligence Committee. The two men had been in disagreement for decades and, when the Democrats won the majority vote, Pelosi appointed representative Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), Citing term-limitation rules that she could have get around. In 2002, Pelosi supported a main challenger of Dingell, who survived. One of his allies, the representative Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), Then took the chair of the committee that Dingell wanted – with the tacit approval of Pelosi.
"You can always disagree with it – no problem. But you do not take these to a press conference, "said former representative Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Who has worked alongside Pelosi for years. "I would not say that they are afraid of her, but I think members who may want to argue against it will think about it for a long time."
Nowadays, few Democrats in the House criticize Pelosi's name, even on the emotional issue of dismissal. If they publicly disagree, many will give him a whim, as Republican Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) Did before he announced his support for the dismissal. Thursday, according to Democrats and other senior officials.
The Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Partisan of the Indictment, stated that she was not working to change the mindset of impeachment and Pelosi leadership.
"I do not criticize her. I do not blame him, "Waters said of Pelosi's dismissal position. "She has the responsibility to do the best job she thinks she can do for this caucus."
Cicillin bristled at the thought that the speaker was unhappy with him or his pro-impeachment colleagues. When asked why he had not voted for removal, he said the question was too personal to try to wring his hands.
Nevertheless, he asserted that the number of lawmakers in favor of impeachment only increased very rapidly: "In cases where the president acts in a manner that seems to him above the law. . . Additional caucus members will only be required to select and respond to an interim inquiry. "