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Democrats Do Not Speak With 1 Voice On Possible Trump Impeachment


In Washington, the House took a step in its investigation of President Trump. The Judiciary Committee approved a resolution. It sets ground rules for upcoming hearings on the president's conduct. Many Democrats call those hearings an impeachment investigation, which makes other Democrats uneasy. Here's NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler tried to set the record straight on what precisely is going on here.


JERRY NADLER: This committee is engaged in an investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump.

DAVIS: But Democrats are not speaking with one voice on this. When Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries was asked if he believed an impeachment inquiry was underway, he responded this way.


HAKEEM JEFFRIES: And the committee should be allowed to do their work without getting caught up into semantical distinctions.

DAVIS: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer offered a simple no when he was asked if an impeachment inquiry was happening. His office later sent out a statement clarifying that he didn't hear the question correctly and said the leader strongly supports Chairman Nadler. Speaker Pelosi is so tired of being asked about it that she cut off impeachment-related questions at her weekly press conference.


NANCY PELOSI: I'm not answering any more questions on this subject.

DAVIS: Pelosi insists there's nothing new happening here. She says it's a continuation of the work the committee's been doing all year. The resolution passed Thursday allows for committee lawyers to question witnesses, evidence to be submitted in private and clarifies the president's council can respond to both in writing.


PELOSI: Legislate, investigate, litigate. That's the path we have been on, and that's the path we continue to be on.

DAVIS: Republicans accused Democrats of using the resolution to camouflage their divisions. Here's Wisconsin lawmaker James Sensenbrenner.


JAMES SENSENBRENNER: You haven't gotten enough evidence to convince a majority of the House of Representatives to even authorize an impeachment inquiry. And that's probably why the committee hasn't gone to the floor to ask for one. The votes aren't there.

DAVIS: He's right. While a majority of House Democrats are on record in support of an impeachment inquiry, a significant bloc of Democrats in competitive districts are not. They're trying to counteract some of the party's most prominent voices, like New York freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is unabashedly for impeachment.


ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: I want to see every Republican go on the record and knowingly vote against impeachment of this president, knowing his corruption, having it on the records that they can have that stain on their careers for the rest of their lives.

DAVIS: A competing group of freshman Democrats met with Nadler on Wednesday to privately voice concerns. One of them, Florida's Donna Shalala, told The Associated Press that impeachment is, quote, "sucking the air out of all the good stuff that we're doing." Washington Democrat Pramila Jayapal, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said the resolution this week is partly an effort to get everyone on the same page.


PRAMILA JAYAPAL: There's no question that the clearer the message, the more successful we will be. And I hope this vote is going to clarify what we are in the midst of.

DAVIS: Ultimately, Chairman Nadler declared, people can call it whatever they want.


NADLER: Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There's no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature.

DAVIS: The first committee hearing scheduled under these new rules is with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski next week. Susan Davis, NPR News, the Capitol.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOGO PENGUIN'S "BREAK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.
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