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By Peter Alexander, Alex Moe and Rebecca Shabad
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told her Democratic colleagues Thursday that President Donald Trump “wants to be impeached” so that he can be vindicated by the Senate.
Pelosi made the comments at a closed-door morning meeting, two Democratic aides told NBC News, who also said that Pelosi called Trump’s actions “villainous.”
The aide said that Pelosi was implying that she will stick to her current plan to keep investigating the president and his administration without jumping to impeachment, though she didn’t explicitly address strategy in her remarks.
“Let me be very clear: the president’s behavior, as far as his obstruction of justice, the things that he is doing, it’s in plain sight, it cannot be denied — ignoring subpoenas, obstruction of justice,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference Thursday following the closed-door meeting.
But she continued to stress a focus on process. “I do think that impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country,” she said. “Get the facts to the American people in our investigation … it may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment, but we’re not at that place.”
Thirty-two members of the House Democratic caucus have so far voiced support for opening an impeachment inquiry against Trump, many of whom came out in support of such a strategy just this week.
The House speaker’s message comes a day after she and Trump tangled over her claim that he had engaged in a “cover-up,” as vocal support for impeachment surged in the Democratic caucus.
“We do believe that it’s important to follow the facts. We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States. And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up,” Pelosi told reporters in the morning, following a closed-door caucus meeting with Democratic lawmakers focused on impeachment.
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The president later cut short a previously scheduled White House visit with Democratic leaders including Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that had been planned to discuss infrastructure policy.
Pelosi said Thursday that the president pulled a “stunt” at the White House on Wednesday and “stormed out” of the room, throwing “another temper tantrum again.”
“I pray for the president of the United States,” she told reporters. “I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.”
Asked what she meant when she referenced a presidential “intervention,” Pelosi appeared to joke about the 25th Amendment, which allows for a process that could lead to the removal of the president through the vice president and Cabinet.
“Statutory intervention? That would be good. Article 25. That’s a good idea. I’ll take it up with my caucus, not that they haven’t been thinking about it.”
Following his brief White House meeting with Democratic leaders, Trump held an impromptu Rose Garden event blasting her statement, and the mounting congressional probes into his conduct and finances.
“I don’t do cover-ups,” he said, adding that legislative cooperation would be on hold until Hill investigations ended.
Pelosi said Thursday that the president was clearly unsettled by the string of legal setbacks, an apparent reference to court decisions this week that would require the release of previously withheld financial documents.
“What really got to him was these court cases and the fact that a House Democratic caucus is not on a path to impeachment, and that’s where he wants us to be,” she said. “When he saw that that was not happening that — again with the cover-up, which he understands is true — just really struck a chord.”