Top Democrats tamp down impeachment talk on call after Pelosi pens letter

Leaders split after Mueller report

By Alex Rogers and Manu Raju, CNN
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA)

(CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to tamp down plans for impeachment during a call with her Democratic colleagues Monday after penning a letter acknowledging the divide in her caucus over it, instead saying they should be focusing on "two words, duty and democracy."

According to multiple sources on the call, Pelosi also reiterated what she's said publicly: Democrats shouldn't impeach for political reasons and shouldn't not impeach for political reasons.

Rep. Maxine Waters, a major proponent of impeachment, told her colleagues she supports it but isn't organizing an effort to push it or asking others to join her.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said impeachment is an issue that will be discussed soberly and only based on what's in the best interest of the country, not what's in the best interest of the party, according to the sources on the call.

One Democrat -- Jared Huffman -- said that while lawmakers are looking at risks of impeachment, they also need to look at and consider the consequences of not impeaching Trump.

Rep. Val Demings of Florida, a former law enforcement officer, said on the call with House Democrats that it was clear Trump had "blatantly" violated laws and that his actions were "just ridiculous," according to one source on the call.

"We are struggling to justify why we aren't beginning impeachment proceedings," she said, according to the source.

Demings, the former Orlando police chief, said there's "enough evidence now" to move forward with impeachment.

"As a 27-year law enforcement officer, and while I understand we need to see the full report and all supporting documents, I believe we have enough evidence now," she said, according to a second source familiar with the call.

In what was seen as a response to Demings, Pelosi said later in the call, "I'm not struggling." While she's respectful of all opinions and takes, Pelosi added, she feels confident about the decision to proceed cautiously and double down on the investigations first, according to three sources on the call.

Earlier Monday, Pelosi sought to address the divisions within the Democratic Party on whether to impeach President Donald Trump in a "dear colleague" letter sent Monday, several days after the Justice Department released a redacted version of Robert Mueller's explosive report.

Pelosi and House Democratic leaders have resisted launching impeachment proceedings, but the speaker noted in her letter that despite differences, Democrats all "firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth."

"It is also important to know that the facts regarding holding the President accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings," she wrote.

"As we proceed to uncover the truth and present additional needed reforms to protect our democracy, we must show the American people we are proceeding free from passion or prejudice, strictly on the presentation of fact," she added.

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 presidential candidate, and other several Democratic lawmakers have called to open an impeachment inquiry in the House. But without Republican support, any effort to actually remove Trump from office would fail in the Senate.

Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Massachusetts, told CNN's Dana Bash that impeachment "may play into President Trump's hands" if the next election is about that fight rather than Trump's first term in office. Lynch noted that President Bill Clinton became more popular after the House impeached and the Senate failed to convict Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

"I think, politically, for the Democrats, we face that same danger here," said Lynch.

Pelosi has said that Democrats should continue to push for the entire report to be made public and to proceed with the multiple investigations into the President's finances and potential obstruction of justice.

"Whether currently indictable or not, it is clear that the President has, at a minimum, engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior which does not bring honor to the office he holds," she added in her letter.

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