House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that impeaching President Trump or using Congress‘ inherent contempt powers against his top aides is still “on the table” as Democrats took stock of where their efforts to investigate the president stand.
Mrs. Pelosi, in several appearances, urged patience, saying it was too early to know which direction to go.
“It takes time,” she said at an event at Georgetown University Law Center. “We can’t have the instant gratification that people want right now.”
Democrats are clamoring to find ways to pry loose documents and force testimony from witnesses over the objections of a White House that this week labeled much of those inquiries “harassment.”
Several committee chairmen have said they would like to see the House flex its inherent contempt powers to slap massive fines on officials who obstruct their investigation, though Mrs. Pelosi was noncommittal.
“This is one of the possibilities that is out there. I’m not saying we’re going down that path, but it shouldn’t be excluded,” she told reporters. “Nothing is off the table.”
One Democrat suggested the House could should avoid impeachment but pass a resolution of inquiry, which she said would strengthen committees’ demands as they prepare for court battles.
“We don’t want to do any of this if we can have our hearings and have the [executive branch] respond as it should,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. “But we have to do our job.”
One of the most prominent demands right now is for the unredacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The Justice Department has rebuffed a subpoena for the full report, saying turning it over would mean breaking the law since the report includes information gleaned from a grand jury.
On Thursday, Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat and intelligence committee chairman, announced that his panel will vote next week on taking “enforcement action” against Attorney General William Barr or the Justice Department.
“The deadline came and went without the production of a single document, raising profound questions about whether the department has any intention to honor its legal obligations,” Mr. Schiff told reporters. “If they don’t demonstrate some good faith we will be forced to compel them to honor their legal commitments.”
While Mr. Schiff did not give details about what this “enforcement action” might entail, he spoke of using inherent contempt to fine officials during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
The Judiciary Committee voted to hold Mr. Barr in contempt last week.
Left without the full document, Ms. Jackson Lee and a group of fellow Democrats organized a marathon reading of the redacted version of the 448-page report Thursday.
They said it was another way for American to have access to the report.
“There’s a lot of average American people that have not seen the Mueller report. They still don’t understand what all the big whoo-ha-ha is about,” said Rep. Sylvia Garcia, Texas Democrat. “So this is an attempt to make sure that the person who is curious, who really doesn’t have the full time [to] dive through all this, [is] able to listen to it.”
In addition to the Mueller report the House Ways and Means Committee has subpoenaed Mr. Trump’s tax returns from the IRS. And the Judiciary Committee is trying to obtain notes and testimony from former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
The White House, in a 12-page letter Wednesday, said it would be willing to cooperate — if chairmen restart their investigations and focus on “legitimate” issues.
Mrs. Pelosi called that “a joke.”
She also rejected claims by some Republicans that the House could obtain the information it’s demanding if it pursues impeachment — and takes the political hit that might come from such a course.
“One of the purposes that the Constitution spells out for investigation is impeachment,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you’re going down an impeachment path. But it means if you had the information, you might.”
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