Top Senate Democrats align with Pelosi amid party divide over impeachment

Posted at 4:01 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-30 18:01:19-04

The top two Senate Democrats are siding with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her resistance to launching impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, even as a growing number of Democrats in both chambers are demanding a formal inquiry.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Pelosi is “handling this appropriately” at a news conference days after another top Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, tweeted her support for opening an inquiry. The No. 2 Senate Democrat, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, also sided with Pelosi, telling CNN, “I’m in Nancy’s corner at this point. I really think we need to think about this long and hard about the impact it’s going to have.”

The move highlights a rift with the Democratic Party over how to take on Trump, with nearly half of House Democrats now calling for an impeachment inquiry. On Sunday, Murray — the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat — endorsed calls for an impeachment probe, becoming the highest ranking Senate Democrat to do so and underscoring the split in the highest ranks of Senate Democratic leadership.

Pelosi has so far opposed opening an impeachment inquiry, but she has changed her tone in recent days — something that allies see as a shift in her position. She indicated she no longer considers the Senate GOP’s resistance to removing Trump from office as a paramount concern — and she greenlighted language in a new House lawsuit that states the House Judiciary Committee is considering articles of impeachment against the President.

But the House speaker has insisted the focus needs to remain on House committees’ court fights with the Trump administration before deciding on whether to take up an impeachment effort.

Pelosi, when asked about impeachment at a news conference following former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress last week, responded: “We still have some outstanding matters in the courts.”

Durbin said he believes Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election makes clear Trump is “guilty” of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but said he is not backing an impeachment probe yet.

“The single most important thing facing us is not impeaching this President, it’s replacing this President. And I don’t make sure we don’t jeopardize that effort,” he said.

Mueller’s report outlines multiple instances where Trump may have obstructed the special counsel’s investigation. The former special counsel confirmed in his congressional testimony last week he could not clear Trump of obstruction of justice.