Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., arrives for a closed-door meeting with her Democratic Caucus prior to a vote that would would authorize lawsuits against Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn for defying subpoenas pertaining to special counsel Robert Mueller's report, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. Barr and McGahn defied the subpoenas on orders from President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Pelosi says Dems 'not even close' to starting impeachment

June 11, 2019 - 6:48 pm
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Brushing back calls for impeachment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday "it's not even close" to having enough support in the House, while Democrats pushed forward on other fronts to investigate President Donald Trump.

The House voted 229-191 to approve a resolution that will allow Democrats to accelerate their legal battles with the Trump administration over access to information from the Russia investigation.

At the same time, they're convening hearings this week on special counsel Robert Mueller's report in an effort to boost public interest in the findings of the Trump-Russia probe while digging into a legal strategy aimed at forcing Attorney General William Barr, former White House counsel Don McGahn and others into compliance with congressional oversight.

"We need answers to the questions left unanswered by the Mueller report," Pelosi said on the House floor ahead of voting.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy countered that the Democratic maneuvers are all "just a desperate attempt to relitigate the Mueller investigation." He called it "an impeachment effort in everything but name."

Earlier in the day, Pelosi all but ignored questions about impeachment during a policy conference, saying the Democrats' strategy is "legislating, investigating, litigating" — in that order.

Pressed about Trump, she said: "I'm done with him. I don't even want to talk about him."

The House's far-reaching resolution approved Tuesday empowers committee chairs to sue top Trump administration officials to force compliance with congressional subpoenas, including those for Mueller's full report and his underlying evidence. They now no longer need a vote of the full House.

The Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, urged his colleagues to support the legislation "so we can get into court and break the stonewall without delay."

After the vote, Nadler said he would go to court "as quickly as possible" against McGahn, who at the behest of the White House has defied subpoenas for documents and his testimony.

The chairman also said he is prepared to go to court to enforce subpoenas against former White House communications director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, a former McGahn aide, if they don't show up for scheduled interviews this month.

And Nadler added new names to the list, saying he is also interested in hearing from Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt, who served as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions' chief of staff, and former White House aide Rick Dearborn. Both are mentioned frequently in the Mueller report.

"Either work with us and comply with subpoenas or we'll see you in court," said Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., the chairman of the Rules Committee.

House leaders have signaled they will hold off on suing Barr, for now, after the committee struck a deal with the Justice Department to receive some underlying materials from Mueller's report. Nadler has called these some of Mueller's "most important files" and said all members of the committee will be able to view them. They include redacted portions of the report pertaining to obstruction of justice. Some staff have already started viewing the files.

However, Nadler said the committee will likely sue for access to the report's secret grand jury information.

The chairmen of several oversight committees said after the vote that Tuesday's action extends beyond the Russia investigation into other aspects of Trump's administration, including their subpoena for the president's tax returns.

"This is not just about Russia, this is a broad, coordinated campaign to stall more investigations across the board," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the chairman of the Oversight Committee. "We are here in a fight for the soul of our democracy and we will use every single tool that is available to us to hold this administration accountable."

It's not clear if that will be enough, though, for the dozens of House Democrats who say it's beyond time to start impeachment proceedings.

Pelosi has resisted those efforts so far, preferring to build the case in the courts, and in the court of public opinion.

The No. 2 Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, downplayed the tensions, saying Tuesday he doesn't get the impression the caucus is "embroiled by this issue and divided by this issue. We have differences of opinion, but I don't think that we are divided."

The ramped-up actions this week are intended to mollify some of the impatient members, while also seeking to deepen the public's understanding of Mueller's findings.

Mueller wrote in his 448-page report released last month that there was not enough evidence to establish that there was a criminal conspiracy between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia, but he also said he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice. The report examined several episodes in which Trump attempted to influence or curtail Mueller's investigation.

On Monday, the Judiciary panel heard testimony from John Dean, a White House counsel under Richard Nixon who helped bring down his presidency. Dean testified that Mueller has provided Congress with a "road map" for investigating Trump.

The focus on Mueller will continue Wednesday, when the House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to review the counterintelligence implications of Russia's election interference, as detailed in Mueller's report. The president's eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Also Wednesday, the Oversight Committee will consider new contempt citations against Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over the administration's pursuit of citizenship questions on the U.S. Census.

Republicans have criticized the hearings as a waste of time and have called for Democrats to move on.

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Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.

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