House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she doesn’t support impeaching President Trump, dealing a major setback to the anti-Trump resistance that has clamored for House Democrats to take the politically charged step.
Mrs. Pelosi, in an interview with The Washington Post Magazine released Monday, said that while she doubts Mr. Trump’s fitness for office, impeaching him would be too divisive.
“I’m not for impeachment,” she told the magazine, adding she was aware she was breaking news with the announcement. “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.”
Mrs. Pelosi had been trying to tamp down impeachment talk within her ranks for months, but she has had only moderate success.
Top Democrats and important liberal activists continue to agitate for their party to pull the trigger.
Some of them were incredulous at what they saw as a surrender by Mrs. Pelosi.
“Is defending our legal system ‘worth it?’ ” wondered Tom Steyer, a billionaire liberal donor who has poured tens of millions of dollars into a campaign to get the president impeached. “Is doing what’s right ‘worth it?’ Or shall America just stop fighting for our principles and do what’s politically convenient?”
Philippe Reines, a top aide to Mr. Trump’s 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton, tweeted: “With all due respect, what happened to waiting for the facts?”
Other activists said they see room in Mrs. Pelosi’s comments for impeachment, saying they believe they can make the bipartisan case against Mr. Trump.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, last week started what many analysts called the pathway to impeachment, issuing document requests to some 81 people or entities that came within the Trump orbit during his time as a businessman, candidate or president.
Mr. Nadler, New York Democrat, said he’s convinced the president has obstructed justice, but he doesn’t have the evidence yet, so he has gone looking for it.
But he, like Mrs. Pelosi, has said unless there’s a strong enough case to win GOP support in the Senate, it’s not worth it.
Impeachment, which requires only a majority vote of the House, is a sort of indictment. A president who has been impeached must be tried by the Senate, still under GOP control, and it takes a two-thirds majority vote to remove a president from office.
In her interview with The Post, Mrs. Pelosi said her feelings about impeachment are borne of the harm it would cause, not her feelings about Mr. Trump’s ability to serve.
“Intellectually unfit. Curiosity-wise unfit. No, I don’t think he’s fit to be president of the United States,” she said, describing deep ideological differences between herself and Mr. Trump over the role of government in Americans’ lives.
“This president — while he may be appealing to you on your insecurity and therefore your xenophobia, whether it’s globalization or immigrants — is fighting clean air for your children to breathe, clean water for them to drink, food safety, every good thing that we should be doing that people can’t do for themselves,” she said.
“You know, I have five kids, and I think I can do everything for them, but I can’t control the air they breathe, the water that they drink. You depend on the public sector to do certain things for the health and well-being of your family, and he is counter to that.”
She went on to say that she doesn’t usually like to talk about the president so much and said it was “coming across too negatively.”
“I hardly ever talk about him. You know, it’s not about him. It’s about what we can do for the people to lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government,” she said.