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Impeachment Pressures Grow Among House Democrats


President Trump's invoking executive privilege over the full Mueller report is prompting more Democrats to say impeachment is on the table. Democrats say it's not about removing Trump from office, but impeachment might be the only way to get what they want in their investigations. NPR's Susan Davis has more.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: If Democrats ultimately begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump, this week will be remembered as one of the turning points. This is when formerly reluctant Democrats, like Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, started talking more like this.

EMANUEL CLEAVER: I have to be honest with you. I once said that I would be the last person standing against impeachment, and now I'm squatting.

DAVIS: White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders made clear the president will not budge on his executive privilege claim to block access to the full Mueller report.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: This is fully consistent with that precedent, and it's fully consistent with the president, actually, upholding the law.

DAVIS: So now Democrats, like Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva, say impeachment is taking on a new urgency.

RAUL GRIJALVA: I think you have to look at impeachment as a mechanism to get what we want.

DAVIS: Democrats are warming to the idea of beginning impeachment proceedings if it's not just about removing Trump from office. New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell says it's also a legal proceeding, and an official impeachment inquiry strengthens Democrats' hands to secure cooperation and documents from the administration.

BILL PASCRELL: I think there are more people who look at impeachment not as a way to get the president, but as a process to begin to review what we know needs to be reviewed.

DAVIS: Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to urge a cautious approach.


NANCY PELOSI: Impeachment is one of the most divisive things that you can do, dividing a country, unless you really have your case with great clarity for the American people.

DAVIS: Most Democrats are still hesitant to publicly embrace impeachment. But they're not ruling it out, either. Here's California's Linda Sanchez.

LINDA SANCHEZ: I think impeachment is always on the table. I always think that that's a tool in the toolbox, but one of the ones that you use when you've run out of other options.

DAVIS: Politically, Democrats have been nervous that triggering impeachment proceedings might ultimately benefit President Trump, that he would look like the victim of a witch hunt. Tennessee congressman Steve Cohen does not share those fears.

STEVE COHEN: I understand the big picture is winning in 2020. And I don't really understand totally the calculus about not proceeding with impeachment. I think there's merit to putting the scarlet letter I on his breast.

DAVIS: So do liberal activists, who gathered outside the Capitol on Thursday to deliver 10 million petition signatures to pressure the House to start impeachment proceedings. Texas Democrat Al Green was one of the party's earliest advocates for impeachment. He spoke to the crowd.


AL GREEN: I say that we have a duty, a responsibility and an obligation under the Constitution of the United States of America to do our duty. We must impeach. Let the Senate do what they may. We have to do what we must.


DAVIS: This week has taken a toll on Democrats in many ways. On Friday, Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin, a member of the Judiciary Committee, was sporting a busted blood vessel in his left eye.

JAMIE RASKIN: They're not sure what caused it, but - yeah, I mean, it's a tough time (laughter) for everybody.

DAVIS: For Democrats, the decision on impeachment only gets tougher from here. Susan Davis, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.