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At Meeting, House Democrats To Address Calls To Impeach Trump

May 22, 2019
Originally published on May 22, 2019 5:30 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

House Democrats are meeting this morning, and their party is divided. Some Democrats are calling to start impeachment proceedings against President Trump. Democrats do agree on some things they want to hold the president accountable for or things they want answers about - his taxes, his business dealings, the potential obstruction of justice related to the Mueller investigation - but Democrats cannot agree on whether impeachment is the move. NPR's congressional reporter Kelsey Snell is with us now.

Hi, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi. Good morning.

KING: So what do Democrats want out of this meeting today?

SNELL: Well, it kind of depends on which Democrats you're talking to. Leaders, they want to tamp down a new surge of impeachment talks and all of this pressure that seems to be bubbling up right now. You know, and the impeachment-side folks have largely confined their frustrations into these closed-door meetings that Democrats have once a week. They haven't really been going to reporters and kind of pushing for impeachment to get started, but that kind of started to change over the past couple of days.

And I think the person who really phrased it really well was Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth when he told reporters yesterday that Democrats are growing convinced that impeachment is coming.

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JOHN YARMUTH: I don't think there's any question. But there's a growing realization in the caucus that impeachment's inevitable. So it's not a question of if, but when.

SNELL: Yeah, if but when - I heard that from a lot of Democrats. And people who agree with that are just kind of getting fed up. You know, Pelosi called this meeting in part just to kind of give those people a chance to talk, to be heard, to kind of let their colleagues know what they think. And she said that impeachment has to be bipartisan, and it has to be deliberate, and she's probably going to tell them again that they haven't reached that point yet. And she has often said that doing it too quickly wouldn't reach those criteria, and it wouldn't bring the American people along.

So this isn't an uncommon tactic for her, to allow members a chance to vent and kind of be heard in order to calm the mood on something controversial.

KING: But in that event, if everybody is going to play their part and say what we expect them to say...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: ...Why do they have to have this meeting right now, this morning?

SNELL: Well, I think the big part of it is that they really do feel like there is this new level of the administration not giving them the information that they want. You know, and those people who aren't calling for immediate impeachment also seem to agree that they really feel disturbed by what the White House is doing in terms of complying with document requests and refusing to appear - have members of the administration appear before these committees. And they're really worried about how constituents are going to respond when they go home next week for the Memorial Day break.

Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters told reporters that the cumulative effect of the actions is kind of creating an atmosphere where Democrats feel like they have to act.

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MAXINE WATERS: I think that many members are a little bit shocked and surprised that the president would be this blatant in, you know, instructing, you know, those in the administration and outside of the administration not to come and testify. I think what he's trying to do and I think what they think he's trying to do is render us toothless.

SNELL: You know, and Waters also told me that it's about more than politics; it's about what she sees as protecting the rule of law and ensuring that democracy keeps functioning, and that has a much higher-level demand for some Democrats than politics in this situation.

KING: But this could be a risky path for Democrats to amble down, right? And isn't that what Nancy Pelosi's been saying?

SNELL: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And that is - that's exactly what Pelosi's been trying to tell them, is that the idea of getting this to a point of being bipartisan and deliberate means that the - that she would believe that the majority of the country is along and on board. There's a lot of argument about whether or not the members who are pushing for impeachment are also the members who are politically safer than some of the people who are in redder districts, more Republican districts or recently won in places that Democrats didn't hold space before.

KING: Just quickly - Nancy Pelosi is supposed to meet with President Trump today to talk about infrastructure. Is that likely to be an awkward meeting?

SNELL: It could be quite awkward. The Trump campaign told our Tamara Keith that, quote, "Maybe if Democrats took governing seriously, they could get some legislation passed, but instead, they've set a new level of gridlock." And that's kind of the attitude that they're - that, you know, some Democrats are worried about, is that if the president gets upset and doesn't want to work with Democrats anymore, they won't be able to get things done like disaster aid, spending and infrastructure - all stuff that they need the president to sign off on.

KING: NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell.

Thanks, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.