WASHINGTON.- The speaker of the United States’ House of Representatives on Thursday accused US President Donald Trump of constantly obstructing justice and expressed more openness to the idea of trying to remove him from office via an impeachment drive.
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made her remarks in a press conference at the US Capitol building, the seat of the federal government’s legislative branch.
Impeachment is «about the facts and the law,» Pelosi said. «As I said yesterday, the president is almost self-impeaching because he is every day demonstrating more obstruction of justice and disrespect for Congress’s legitimate role to subpoena.»
Until now, the House speaker had cautioned against the possibility of launching impeachment proceedings against Trump, an idea that the most progressive wing of the opposition Democratic Party has encouraged.
But she appeared to change her tune on Thursday, saying there is a «cumulative effect of obstruction that the administration is engaged in.»
Pelosi was referring to the fact the White House this week invoked executive privilege to prohibit former counsel Don McGahn from complying with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
In addition, Trump on Wednesday asserted executive privilege in blocking Democrats’ petition for access to a complete copy of Mueller’s report and the underlying evidence, possibly setting up a court battle between his administration and Congress.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler on April 19 subpoenaed US Attorney General William Barr for Mueller’s full, unredacted report on his investigation into alleged links between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, including secret grand jury material and other confidential information.
A day earlier, Barr had provided Congress with a redacted version of the more than 440-page Mueller report.
The attorney general subsequently said earlier this month in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had made as much of the report available to the public as legally permissible.
But Pelosi said Thursday – a day after Nadler’s committee voted to recommend that Barr be held in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over Mueller’s unredacted report – that Trump’s administration was illegally stonewalling Congress.
Members of the Trump administration do «not respect the oath of office that they take to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,» Pelosi told reporters. «Three co-equal branches of government, separation of power. They don’t respect that.»
«We’re going to do the right thing, that’s just the way it is, and it is going to be based on fact and law and patriotism, not partisanship or anything else,» Pelosi said.
Obstruction of justice charges have been at the heart of previous presidential crises and scandals.
Former President Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice by the House in 1998 related to a scandal over his sexual liaison with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, although he was acquitted by the Senate in the trial that followed.
Ex-President Richard Nixon (1913-1994) resigned from office in 1974 in the face of near-certain impeachment and conviction on charges of obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress related to the Watergate scandal.
Referring to Nixon, Pelosi said that ex-president had resigned after «months of hearings and investigation before they got to a place where they had a compelling argument that even the Republicans had to go to the president and say it’s over.»
She added that «impeachment is one of the most divisive things you can do» but said the American people need to know the truth.
The demands for the full Mueller report came after the partially redacted version showed that the special counsel found no evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia’s alleged efforts to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election, in which Trump scored a surprising victory over the Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The claim of Russian meddling in the US election arose following the July 2016 publication by WikiLeaks of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and from the chairman of Clinton’s presidential campaign, John Podesta.
The content of those e-mails, which the US intelligence community found was made available to WikiLeaks due to Russian cyberattacks, cast Clinton and the DNC in a negative light and may have contributed to her defeat.
Although no evidence of collusion was found, the matter of whether Trump may have obstructed justice has not been put to rest.
In an initial memo to Congress on Mueller’s report, Barr said in March that Mueller and his team had not made a determination on whether the president obstructed justice.
But Barr said in that memo that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had concluded that Trump’s actions during the Russia probe did not constitute obstruction.