Nancy Pelosi claims US in a 'constitutional crisis'

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday said she agreed with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler's (D-N.Y.) assertion that the U.S. is currently facing a "constitutional crisis" after the panel voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.

"Yes, I do agree with Chairman Nadler," Pelosi said during a press conference in the Capitol, "because the administration has decided that they're not going to honor their oath of office."

Yet Pelosi said even a constitutional crisis is not grounds to launch impeachment hearings against the president before Nadler and the heads of the other investigative committees are able to gather more evidence — and convince more voters — that such a step is necessary.

"This is very methodical, it's very Constitution-based, it's very law-based, it's very factually based," she said. "It's not about pressure, it's about patriotism."

Pelosi's remarks came a day after the Judiciary Committee voted along strict party lines to hold Barr in contempt for his refusal to comply with the panel’s subpoenas seeking an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

"We’ve talked for a long time about approaching a constitutional crisis. We are now in it,” Nadler told reporters after the vote.

"Now is the time of testing whether we can keep a republic, or whether this republic is destined to change into a different, more tyrannical form of government," he added. "We must resist this."

Pelosi declined to say when the full House will vote on the contempt measure, suggesting Democrats are eyeing similar contempt resolutions targeting other administrative officials and packaging them all together before bringing it to the floor. She did not name names. 

"In terms of timing, when we're ready, we'll come to the floor. And we'll just see, because there might be some other contempt of Congress issues that we want to deal with at the same time," Pelosi said.

"[Nadler] wants to do it as soon as possible, and so do we."

The contempt resolution against Barr will have no immediate practical effect, as the Justice Department is highly unlikely to take action against the attorney general. But it escalates the already heightened tensions between the Democratically led House, which is seeking to delve deeper into Mueller’s findings, and a White House and Republicans in Congress fighting to put a lid on the years-long investigation.

The release of Mueller's report has fueled a small but vocal group of liberals on and off of Capitol Hill clamoring to impeach Trump. Pelosi has consistently tamped down that effort, citing the lack of public support. On Thursday, she amplified that message, noting that the ouster of President Nixon took months of investigations to bring voters on board.

"Impeachment is one of the most divisive things that you can do, dividing a country," she said. "Unless you really have your case with great clarity for the American people."

But Pelosi has also adopted a new framing for the debate in recent days, arguing that Trump, by stonewalling Congress's oversight efforts, is building the case for "self-impeachment."

"As I said yesterday, the president is almost self-impeaching because he is, everyday, demonstrating more obstruction of justice, and disrespect for Congress's legitimate role to subpoena," Pelosi said. But for the impeachment advocates, she delivered a warning.

"We won't go any faster than the facts take us, or any slower than the facts take us," she said.

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