(Bloomberg) -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing new pressure from House Democrats to open impeachment proceedings as she plans to meet with her party behind closed doors on Wednesday to discuss President Donald Trump's defiance of congressional investigations.
Several influential Democratic lawmakers, including a few top Pelosi lieutenants, in recent days joined calls to begin an impeachment inquiry, spurred by Trump's move to prevent former White House Counsel Don McGahn from testifying Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee.
Pelosi, who is also scheduled to meet with Trump on Wednesday to discuss infrastructure proposals, remains deeply reluctant to pursue impeachment, worried that the move could backfire on her party and motivate Trump's base. But her strategy is coming under greater second-guessing.
In at least two private meetings this week, Pelosi was pressed by Democrats to consider moving more quickly toward impeachment. In one of the meetings, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler conveyed that some of his panel's Democrats now want to pursue that option, according to a House official. His committee would likely oversee the early stages of such an inquiry.
A vocal minority, including Financial Services Chairman Maxine Waters and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has long been calling for Trump's impeachment, with even more urgency since Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report was released. But until this week, that talk had been relatively isolated. And Pelosi retains many influential supporters who firmly back her go-slow approach, including No. 3 House Democrat James Clyburn and long-time ally Rosa DeLauro.
After McGahn snubbed the House Judiciary panel on Tuesday, Democrats appeared to be split over the next steps. Panel members scrapped a post-hearing press conference Tuesday when they couldn't agree on what to say, according to a person familiar with the matter.
"I think that we are probably going to wind up there," at impeachment, Karen Bass, a Democrat on the Judiciary panel and chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told reporters after the hearing. "I don't know if that is today; I don't know if we might be forced to act very soon." She added that the House needs to speed up its investigation of Trump to counter the legal obstacles the administration is staging.
Democrats aren't keeping a formal whip count, and one Judiciary Committee Democrat, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, said this isn't an issue where the most votes should win.
"I would say that there are arguments for doing it, but we have to agree collectively," said Raskin, who said he recently changed his mind in favor of launching an inquiry.
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, a senior Judiciary panel member, offered a more cautious approach. She told reporters that in the next two days she will introduce a resolution to authorize the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether there are sufficient grounds to launch an impeachment inquiry -- in other words, an investigation into whether there should be an impeachment investigation.
"We believe and continue to believe that we are doing the right thing by investigating, and that our task is to educate before we activate, and that is what we will do," Jackson Lee said.
Pelosi has complained that the drip-drip-drip of legal battles with the administration over investigations underway in six committees was overtaking the party's legislative agenda.
The House won the opening round of one court battle on Monday, when a federal judge ruled that Trump's longtime accounting firm should comply with a subpoena from the House Oversight and Reform Committee and hand over his financial records. Trump is appealing the ruling.
On Wednesday, a different federal judge is set to hear a similar case in which Trump is seeking to block subpoenas of Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp. for documents related to Trump, his companies and his family.
Raskin and other Democrats have told Pelosi that an impeachment inquiry would be a more streamlined, centralized route to obtain the documents and witness information related to Trump.
But Pelosi has said that 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." She also has said Trump is "not worth it."
Pelosi's tone shifted slightly this week, making the case that the Trump investigations led by multiple House committees are beginning to yield some investigative results and court victories.
The speaker also appeared to be defending the turf of some committee chairman -- many of them longtime Pelosi allies -- when Democrat Steve Cohen of Tennessee on Monday pressed for an impeachment inquiry.
She responded to Cohen by asking if he was advocating for shutting down the five other committees -- aside from Judiciary -- that are working on Trump-related issues. She even noted that the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, had just won a court victory Monday.
Still, most of the new converts to impeachment this week suggested they were tired of Trump's stonewalling on House committee requests for witness testimony and documents, and that an impeachment inquiry will provide those efforts with greater legal heft.
"More of my colleagues are coming around, reluctantly, to the reality that impeachment is necessary, unavoidable, and urgent," California Democrat Jared Huffman said on Twitter. "This week feels like the tipping point."
To contact the reporter on this story: Billy House in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at firstname.lastname@example.org, Anna Edgerton
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.