House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is walking a tightrope on impeachment, and Donald Trump's threat Wednesday to kill progress on every initiative so long as Democrats are investigating him certainly didn't help matters. But Trump’s promise to obstruct governance itself could soon be Pelosi’s ace in the hole.
Hours before Trump ambushed Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a three-minute meeting Wednesday, Pelosi had already told reporters, "We believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up."
Shortly after that supposed White House “meeting” and Trump's subsequent command to "get these phony investigations over with," Pelosi expanded on her earlier statement at a Center for American Progress conference. “The fact is in, in plain sight, this president is obstructing justice and is engaged in a cover-up," she said, adding, "And that could be an impeachable offense.”
That's the farthest Pelosi has gone publicly in entertaining the possibility of initiating impeachment proceedings against Trump. Pelosi is fresh off a series of meetings with Democratic leadership and caucus members earlier in the week in which she urged caution about impeachment. A Wednesday morning emergency meeting Pelosi called with her 235-member caucus to tamp down impeachment fever turned into an opportunity for House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters to argue that the House has a "responsibility to impeach." Waters has been on the impeachment train publicly for well over a year, but her advocacy followed on several days of her colleagues making the urgent case for impeachment both publicly and privately.
Democrats’ investigative efforts are starting to bear some fruit. The House Oversight Committee scored a big win this week in court after it subpoenaed a decade’s worth of Trump's financial records from an accounting firm he used. Though Trump is appealing the court’s ruling that his accounting firm must comply with the subpoena, it's a sign that the legal argument his attorneys are making across the board isn't going to fare well with judges. In fact, another federal judge ordered the release of certain transcripts related to Michael Flynn by the end of the week. To boot, New York State passed a law Wednesday opening up yet another avenue by which congressional investigators can glean information about Trump's tax returns.
But perhaps the biggest get this week for Pelosi was Trump's very public admission that he wasn't going to do anything whatsoever with Democrats as long as their investigations continue. It's similar to the Oval Office meltdown in which he said he would be "proud" to shut down the government. Now he's effectively shutting down the government all over again, after Pelosi and Schumer attempted to make a deal with Trump to address the infrastructure needs of the country.
When Pelosi told reporters Tuesday that Trump was engaged in a cover-up, it was likely an olive branch of sorts to her more aggressive members. But what she got out of that declaration was an admission from Trump that he simply won't do the job he was elected to do: govern.
That didn't play well for Trump during the government shutdown and it won't play well from Trump now as his message seeps into the consciousness of America. In the meantime, all his stonewalling will soon reap a series of losses in the courts that will show his pretense for refusing to cooperate with congressional investigations to be constitutionally bogus. So while Pelosi is still resisting calls to impeach Trump, she has also boxed him into a corner, very similar to the way she did during the shutdown.