A war of words outside the U.S. Capitol between Attorney General Bill Bar and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
WASHINGTON â€”Â House Speaker Nancy PelosiÂ accused President Donald Trump of “a cover-up” moments before he broke off infrastructure talks and held an impromptu Rose Garden press conference to attackÂ ongoing investigations involving him.Â
“We do believe itâ€™s important to follow the facts, we believe that no one is above the law, including the President of the United States, and we believe that the President of the United States is engaged in a cover-up,” Pelosi said following a meeting with House Democrats on Wednesday to discuss their investigations of the president.
The president later addressed the speaker’s missive, saying, “I don’t do cover-ups.”
The tense exchange came as a meeting between Pelosi, Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerÂ onÂ infrastructure fell apart Wednesday morning. The president told Democrats he would not work with them unless they stopped investigating him.Â
Pelosi, who has not fully endorsed impeachment proceedings against Trump, later suggestedÂ a cover-up may be worthy of impeachment.
â€œIn plain sight in the public domain this president is obstructing justice and he is engaged in a cover up and that could be an impeachable offense,” she said on stage at the Center for American Progress Ideas Conference.Â
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Before the failed infrastructure meetings, Pelosi hadÂ been tryingÂ to tamp downÂ a growing clamor fromÂ Democrats who want to impeachÂ the president.Â Many in theÂ party, including some of Pelosi’s allies,Â are saying it’s time for Democrats to open an impeachmentÂ inquiry.Â
Pelosi did not make the case against impeachment herself during the caucus meeting, said Rep. Gerald Connolly, instead she presided over presentations from the chairmen of the committees who are investigating the Trump administration.Â
Many members walking out of the meeting insisted Democrats were unified in their approach, but accounts from some lawmakers showed not everyone was on board with the wait-and-see strategy.Â
Connolly said that Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who has long pushed for impeachment gave an update on her committee’s investigations before saying the caucus should impeach Trump.Â
“After she finished a long, long report she quickly said ‘we should impeach him’ and sat down and everyone laughed,” Connolly said.
Lawmakers may have laughed at Waters’ attempt to get the conversation going, but a growing number of Democrats view the administration’s stonewalling as serious enough to open an impeachment inquiry.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the committee which would handle impeachment, said members were” totally unified” in their approach to getting information from the Trump administration “and we all understand this to be an historic moment.”
However, he also said “lots of members want to put an impeachment inquiry onto the table and we want to use whatever means are necessary in order to defend the constitution, the rule of law.â€
Raskin was one of a trio of senior members who pushed Pelosi to start an impeachment inquiry on Monday after the White House instructed former White HouseÂ counsel DonÂ McGahn to ignore a subpoenaÂ to appear before Congress Tuesday.
McGahn TuesdayÂ defied theÂ congressional subpoena and did not show up for a hearing where lawmakers had planned to press him on his interactions with Trump regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The White House instructed McGahn to ignore the subpoena after the Department of Justice on Monday released a legal opinion that said he was not required to appear.
â€œThis presidentÂ â€“ as a result of his decision to direct Mr. McGahn not to appearÂ â€“ has engaged in an effort to obstructÂ and impede and to cover up,” said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., the chairman of the Democratic PolicyÂ and Communications Committee, the House Democratsâ€™ messaging arm.
“I think the time has come to begin the formal process of considering impeachment as an option,” said Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. He said the inquiry should be opened to communicate to the administration the “heightened level of seriousness” of theÂ Democrats’ investigations. But he also acknowledged that such a decision was ultimately up to Pelosi, who, so far, is not on board.Â
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On Monday, a trio of Democratic leaders, including Cicilline, pushed Pelosi, during different meetingsÂ to move forward with an impeachment inquiry, but she held firm, according to a Democratic aide who was in the room during the meetings. The interactions were first reported by Politico.
Top House Democrats spent Tuesday insisting that the lawmakers who were calling for impeachment were still the minority of the partyÂ â€“ for now.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday he thinks every DemocratÂ “in their gut” feels Trump has “done some things that probably justify impeachment.”
“Having said that, this is the important point,Â I think the majority of Democrats continue to believe that we need to continue to pursue the avenue that we’ve been on,” he added. “If facts lead us to a broader action, so be it,” Hoyer said.
Pelosi has long said impeachment is divisive. In an exclusive interview with USA TODAY in March, she said impeachmentÂ would be “a gift” to the president if it was not bipartisan. But after a redacted version of Mueller’s report was made public, she said impeachment was possible if facts led there.Â
â€œI see a lot more people who have seen what has occurred who would like to see an impeachment inquiry,â€ Tennessee Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen said Tuesday. Cohen,Â a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he has articles of impeachment drafted,Â but would like to see Mueller come in to testify before he files them.
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.,Â said Tuesday that Democrats had “no choice” but to open an impeachment inquiry “at the very least.”
Ocasio-CortezÂ said she didn’t speak for all of her colleagues but she noted that she had not seen “a lot of overt expression of oppositionâ€ to impeachment.Â
“I think itâ€™s really just a matter of leadership” who oppose the move,Â she said. Ocasio-Cortez has long supported getting Trump out of office, but she has become increasingly vocal about her desire for an impeachment inquiry after Mueller’s report was released.Â
Over the weekend, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said he had read the Mueller report and determined that the president had committed impeachable offenses.Â However, no other Republicans have followed Amash in calling for impeachment.
Contributing: Bart Jansen for USA TODAY
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