“Yes.” That was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s monosyllabic answer Thursday to a question about whether the nation was in a constitutional crisis. “The administration has decided that they’re not going to honor their oath of office,” Pelosi added.
Pelosi’s comments come on the heels of House Judiciary chair Jerry Nadler declaring Wednesday that the nation had finally reached that threshold following his committee’s vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress. “We are now in a constitutional crisis,” Nadler said definitively following 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 as other republics have over the centuries.”
But as Democrats continue to shell out subpoenas that the Trump administration summarily ignore, they are still leery of tumbling headlong toward impeachment. Asked why Democrats haven’t begun impeachment proceedings, Nadler said, “It may not be the best answer to this constitutional crisis.”
Nadler along with House Intelligence chair Adam Schiff have both expressed concern impeachment would be “seen by a substantial part of the country as merely an effort to nullify an election by other means,” as Schiff put it.
But Democrats are clearly grappling with what it means for a supposed co-equal branch of government to declare itself supreme to Congress and therefore above its constitutional oversight responsibilities. In an interview with The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent, Schiff said the case for impeachment grows stronger every day based on Trump’s total obstruction of Congress. The “constitutional confrontation” adds weight to the calls for impeachment, he said.
“Obstruction of Congress was one of the bases on which the impeachment of Richard Nixon was sought,” Schiff said. “Obstruction of Congress, following on the obstruction of the Mueller investigation, does strengthen the case to move forward with an impeachment proceeding.” Sargent wrote that Schiff is starting to view impeachment as a step Democrats might be “forced” to take.
It’s a variation on Pelosi saying Wednesday that Trump is “becoming self-impeachable” through his absolute noncompliance with Congress. But Pelosi, having moved away from her off-the-table stance, is still emphasizing a “methodical” and deliberative process.
“We won’t go any faster than the facts take us or any slower than the facts take us,” Pelosi said Thursday as she wrapped up her weekly press conference.