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Pelosi says Trump's 'cover-up' could be 'an impeachable offense'

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A war of words outside the U.S. Capitol between Attorney General Bill Bar and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
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WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused President Donald Trump of “a cover-up” moments before he broke off infrastructure talks and held an impromptu Rose Garden press conference to attack ongoing investigations involving him. 

“We do believe it’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 Schumer on infrastructure fell apart Wednesday morning. The president told Democrats he would not work with them unless they stopped investigating him. 

Pelosi, who has not fully endorsed impeachment proceedings against Trump, later suggested a cover-up may be worthy of impeachment.

“In 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. 

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Before the failed infrastructure meetings, Pelosi had been trying to tamp down a growing clamor from Democrats who want to impeach the president. Many in the party, including some of Pelosi’s allies, are saying it’s time for Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

“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.”

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 House counsel Don McGahn to ignore a subpoena to appear before Congress Tuesday.

McGahn Tuesday defied the 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.

“This president – as a result of his decision to direct Mr. McGahn not to appear – has engaged in an effort to obstruct and impede and to cover up,” said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., the chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, the House Democrats’ 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 the Democrats’ investigations. But he also acknowledged that such a decision was ultimately up to Pelosi, who, so far, is not on board. 

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On Monday, a trio of Democratic leaders, including Cicilline, pushed Pelosi, during different meetings 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 party – for now.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday he thinks every Democrat “in their gut” feels Trump has “done some things that probably justify impeachment.”

“Having said that, this is the important point, 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 impeachment 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. 

“I see a lot more people who have seen what has occurred who would like to see an impeachment inquiry,” Tennessee Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen said Tuesday. Cohen, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he has articles of impeachment drafted, 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., said Tuesday that Democrats had “no choice” but to open an impeachment inquiry “at the very least.”

Ocasio-Cortez said she didn’t speak for all of her colleagues but she noted that she had not seen “a lot of overt expression of opposition” to impeachment. 

“I think it’s really just a matter of leadership” who oppose the move, 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. 

Over the weekend, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said he had read the Mueller report and determined that the president had committed impeachable offenses. However, no other Republicans have followed Amash in calling for impeachment.

Contributing: Bart Jansen for USA TODAY

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  • Rep. Veronica Escobar (D, TX) is surrounded by family while being sworn in by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on Jan. 3, 2019 in Washington D.C.1 of 47
  • Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D, VA) enjoys a laugh while waiting to be sworn in by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a member of the 116th Congress.2 of 47
  • Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D, MA) is sworn in by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a member of the 116th Congress.3 of 47
  • The Biblical Hebraica, the oldest Hebrew Bible printed in the United States, was prepared for the swearing in ceremony of the 116th Congress on January 3, 2019 by request of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.4 of 47
  • The child of representative Mike Levin (D, CA) holds the Bible ready for his father to be sworn in to Congress.5 of 47
  • Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D, TX) is sworn in.6 of 47
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi poses with a member of Representative Lizzie Fletcher's (D, TX) family during the swearing in ceremony.7 of 47
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi greets a young guest of Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D, MA), Thursday.8 of 47
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  • Books for swearing in members of Congress are prepared by request including the Bible, Tanach, Quran, and Constitution of the United States.11 of 47
  • Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Quran was prepared for use in the swearing in ceremony of the 116th Congress by  request of incoming Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.  Howver on the day of the ceremony she decided to use her own Quran instead.12 of 47
  • Rep. Lauren Underwood (D, IL) is sworn in by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.13 of 47
  • Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D, VA) is sworn in as a member of the 116th Congress surrounded by family.14 of 47
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  • Vice President Mike Pence officiates ceremonial swearing of Senator Sherrod Brown, left, in the Old Senate Chambers.16 of 47
  • Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), left, poses with family and Vice President Mike Pence at his ceremonial swearing in at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.17 of 47
  • Vice President Mike Pence gives a wink durig ceremonial swearings of Senators in the Old Senate Chambers.18 of 47
  • Vice President Mike Pence officiates ceremonial swearing-in of Marsha Blackburn in the Old Senate Chambers at the U.S. Capitol as she becomes Tennessee's first female United States Senator.19 of 47
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  • Vice President Mike Pence poses with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), second left,  and family following his ceremonial swearing in.23 of 47
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  • WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 3: U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) talks during the first session of the 116th Congress. Under the cloud of a partial federal government shutdown, Rep. Nanci Pelosi will reclaim her former title as Speaker of the House and her fellow Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives for the second time in eight years.33 of 47
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  • WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 3: Speaker-designate Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) enters the chamber during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol January 03, 2019 in Washington, DC. Under the cloud of a partial federal government shutdown, Pelosi will reclaim her former title as Speaker of the House and her fellow Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives for the second time in eight years. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775276804 ORIG FILE ID: 107663486641 of 47
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  • WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 3: (L-R) Rep.-elects Madeleine Dean (D-PA) and Susan Wild (D-PA) along with U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), help put on Susan Wild's congressional pendant during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol January 03, 2019 in Washington, DC. Under the cloud of a partial federal government shutdown, Pelosi will reclaim her former title as Speaker of the House and her fellow Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives for the second time in eight years. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775276804 ORIG FILE ID: 107663483644 of 47
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