The showdown between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration has become a constitutional crisis, with the president asserting executive privilege over the entire Mueller report and lawmakers moving to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday.
But she said that calling it a constitutional crisis has not changed her approach to launching impeachment proceedings.
“We have investigations that will give us facts and the truth,” Pelosi told ABC Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce at her weekly news conference in the Capitol.
“This is not about Congress or any committee of Congress. It’s about the American people and their right to know and their election that is at stake and that a foreign government intervened in our election and the president thinks it is a laughing matter.”
Pelosi said she agrees with House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler that the country is in a "constitutional crisis," but repeatedly emphasized Democrats won’t rush their approach to oversight, pointing to the mounting case her party is building through its investigations – and she stressed that Democrats still haven’t heard directly from special counsel Robert Mueller.
"When we're ready, we'll come to the floor, and we'll just see,” Pelosi said when asked about the timing of a floor vote holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, hinting that Democrats may package contempt resolutions together for multiple administration officials, including former White House counsel Don McGhan, who the president has blocked from turning over documents, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who denied Democrats’ request for six years of the president’s tax returns.
"There may be some other contempt of Congress issues that we want to deal with at the same time.”
“We're asking in the constitutional way for the administration to comply. We still have more opportunities. We’ll see if Mueller will testify and that will that will make a big difference in terms of where we go from here.”
Pelosi’s delicate balance between her base’s impulse and the president’s provocation has not moved her from her stance – a deep-rooted commitment not to split the country by jumping the gun on impeachment.
“We're going to do the right thing. That's just the way it is and it is going to be based on fact and law and patriotism - not partisanship or anything else,” she said. “It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with E Pluribus Unum,” she said referring to the Latin motto on the Great Seal of the United States, and also all U.S. currency and coins meaning "Out of many, one."
“Impeachment is one of the most divisive things that you can do, dividing a country unless you really have your case with great clarity for the American people,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi acknowledged, “Yes, there is some enthusiasm” for impeachment, but the current strategy “is producing results.”
“This administration wants to have a constitutional crisis because they do not respect the oath of office that they take to protect and defend the Constitution, support the constitution of the United States,” she said. “The fact is our judgment has to be on the facts of what they did in relationship to the law.
“We will go forward with that and we won't go any faster than the facts take us or any slower than the facts take us.”
Pelosi said “it's appalling” that the Trump administration “would not even pretend to want to protect our elections and in fact be an obstacle” to finding out more about how Russian interference happened “so we can prevent it from happening again.”
“We follow the facts,” she continued. “Now as I said yesterday, the president is almost self-impeaching because he is everyday demonstrating more obstruction of justice and disrespect for Congress’s legitimate role to subpoena.”
Pressed whether holding administration officials in contempt has any teeth to force compliance with subpoenas, Pelosi explained Democratic oversight “is very methodical.”
“It's very Constitution-based. It's very law-based. It's very factually-based. It's not about pressure. It's about patriotism.”
“Will the administration violate the constitution of the United States and not abide by the request of Congress in its legitimate oversight responsibilities? Well, that remains to be seen,” she continued. “Every day they are advertising their obstruction of justice by ignoring subpoenas and by just declaring that people shouldn't come and speak to Congress so that the American people can find out the truth about the Russian disruption of our election so that it doesn't happen again.”