As House Democrats geared up for their first impeachment hearing last month, Speaker Nancy Pelosi huddled in her office with her leadership team, downplaying expectations.
Don’t expect these hearings to trigger a massive shift in public support toward ousting President Trump, Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her colleagues the night before the hearing, according to Democrats familiar with her warning who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the encounter frankly.
Those words of caution — delivered as House Intelligence Committee members prepared in the Capitol basement for the next day’s hearing — reflected the innate skepticism that has influenced her every move as she has guided her Democratic majority through a tumultuous moment in the nation’s history.
Even after a whistleblower complaint compelled Pelosi to launch the investigation she had long resisted, she has treated impeachment as a political liability and sought to redirect public attention to the pocketbook issues she considers responsible for her majority.
But with a five-minute nationally televised address Thursday morning, she has become the reluctant face of the impeachment effort, donning a role she never wanted at a time when she’d rather be talking about anything else.
“I’m really sorry the president made this necessary by his complete disregard for the vision of our founders,” she told reporters Thursday. “An impeachment is not a pleasant experience. It can be divisive. We don’t take any glee in this at all. It’s heartbreaking. But the president gave us no choice.”
The speaker’s discomfort was on full display, starting with her morning address, in which she gravely announced her decision to move forward with impeachment with the cautionary words of the Founding Fathers. Two hours later, she was rattled when a reporter asked if she hates Trump — a question meant to elicit a response to a frequent GOP attack, but one she instead took as a personal slight.