Nancy Pelosi keeps her cards close on impeachment as House plows ahead

Top House Democrats had some key questions on their minds during a private meeting in the basement of the Capitol with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team Tuesday evening.

Where did she stand on impeachment? What would the articles look like? When would votes occur?

Pelosi, several sources said, was true to form: Revealing very little.

She wouldn’t specify any sort of timeline, didn’t lay out the scope of the articles — and she even indicated to her colleagues that it wasn’t even clear yet if the House would, in fact, impeach Trump.

Her message: Let the process play out.

“No, we haven’t made it,” Pelosi claimed to CNN when asked if she had made a decision on impeachment.

At a crucial juncture in the impeachment proceedings, and with the country bitterly divided, the speaker is seeking to project an image of a House Democratic majority that is reluctant to impeach Trump. And even as she’s green-lighted every key decision of the fast-moving probe in the House, she is trying to balance the desire to wrap up the proceedings quickly without getting ahead of vulnerable Democrats still nervous about impeachment.

For months, Pelosi resisted moving forward on an impeachment inquiry even after many House Democrats were loudly demanding moving forward in the aftermath of the Mueller report detailing episodes of the President allegedly seeking to undercut the investigation into his campaign and his presidency.

But she changed her tune in the aftermath of revelations Trump urged the Ukrainians to investigate his political rivals, prompting her late September announcement calling for an impeachment inquiry. Yet even as the probe has revealed more damaging information about Trump’s conduct, she still steadfastly refuses to say he should be impeached or to detail her plans.

Pelosi’s allies believe she’s waiting for the right time to make clear where she stands.

“She doesn’t follow parades,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia. “She leads them.”

Pelosi is keeping close counsel with the chairs of her key committees, particularly House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York as they march towards impeachment.

Multiple sources say the House Democrats are considering several articles of impeachment, including abuse of power and bribery, obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice. House Judiciary votes on the articles could occur as soon as next week followed by floor votes soon after.

But Pelosi has yet to tell her colleagues her exact plans, giving many of her members space, including vulnerable Democrats like Rep. Mikie Sherrill.

Sherrill, a New Jersey freshman who backed an impeachment inquiry over national security concerns, told CNN on Wednesday that she has stayed in touch with Pelosi.

Asked if Pelosi is handling the impeachment process well right now, Sherrill said: “We’ll see. I think the end result will determine that.”

But she added: “One thing that I wanted was a sober, thoughtful process. This is not a road we had hoped to go down. I would say that the President’s conduct really left us no other choice. But I do think it is not something that should be taken lightly, and I’ve been happy with the seriousness which the caucus has approached and which the speaker has approached.”

Going behind closed doors on Wednesday to discuss Schiff’s committee’s sweeping report, Pelosi tried to convey a sense of seriousness. She would not allow staff in the room, nor did they allow the members to bring in their cellphones.

And as it was time to speak, Pelosi said: “Are you ready?”

The question, raised ahead of the House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing, addressed whether the party is ready to keep moving forward on impeachment, according to two sources familiar with the meeting. Democrats in the room were vocal with their unequivocal answer: yes.

Pelosi did not offer a timeline for potential articles of impeachment, but encouraged her colleagues to be disciplined in their messaging on the issue.

“There is no anxiety on this thing, I can tell you that right now,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, a Democrat from New Jersey. “We’re not happy we’re at this point or doing this. It’s got to be done, though. That’s our oath of office, and we will do it.”

Freshman Rep. Max Rose, a Democrat from a swing district in New York, said he didn’t have any concerns about the lack of clarity from Pelosi, saying he’s only concerned about seeing a drug pricing measure and infrastructure bill passed.

“I don’t give a s–t about timelines for anything else besides those things,” Rose said.

“I do not feel like we should be pushing this any faster than what the facts tell us to do,” he added of impeachment. “That’s what matters.”