House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stated on Wednesday that impeaching President Donald Trump is “not a priority” following Michael Cohen’s guilty plea to campaign finance violations.
Cohen — Trump’s former personal attorney — told a federal judge in New York on Tuesday that he made payments to two women (adult film star Stormy Daniels and for Playboy model Karen McDougal) during the 2016 presidential race “at the direction of the candidate” referring to the president. Further, he stated that the payments were “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”
In an interview with the Associated Press, Pelosi said, “Impeachment has to spring from something else” besides Cohen’s guilty plea.
She added, “If and when the information emerges about that, we’ll see. It’s not a priority on the agenda going forward unless something else comes forward.”
If the Democrats should gain control of the House this fall, Pelosi said that her party’s priority will be conducting oversight of the president and ensuring Special Counsel Robert Mueller can complete his investigation.
Pelosi has consistently downplayed the prospect of impeaching Trump since he took office.
The minority leader voted against Rep. Al Green’s, D-Texas, articles of impeachment resolution offered last December, which was defeated badly by a tally of 364 to 58.
In a joint statement with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer at the time, Pelosi argued, “Now is not the time to consider articles of impeachment.” She once again pointed to Mueller’s ongoing work.
Pelosi and Hoyer may have made the political calculation that talk of impeachment could have the unwanted effect of stirring up Trump’s base to show up at the polls in November.
Following Cohen’s guilty plea, Pelosi did tweet that it places the president in “even greater legal jeopardy” and that there is a “culture of corruption and criminality at the heart of Trump’s inner circle.”
Cohen’s admission of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money “at the direction of the candidate” to influence the 2016 election shows @realDonaldTrump’s claims of ignorance to be far from accurate, & places him in even greater legal jeopardy.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 21, 2018
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has supported Trump’s impeachment in the past, also appeared to be more circumspect in the aftermath of Cohen’s guilty plea, offering like Pelosi that the priority should be protecting Mueller’s investigation.
“I think that what Congress needs to do right now is we need to make sure that special prosecutor Mueller is fully protected from being fired by Donald Trump,” she told CNN.
Trump tweeted on Wednesday, “Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!”
In an interview with “Fox & Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt slated to air on Thursday, the president elaborated that the payments to Daniels and McDougal “didn’t come out of the campaign, they came from me.”
Trump further noted that he tweeted about the payment to Daniels in May.
“The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,” Trump had tweeted, reiterating that “money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no role in this transaction.”
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) August 22, 2018
“My first question when I heard about it was, ‘Did they come out of the campaign?’ because that could be a little dicey,” Trump told Earhardt, adding that President Barack Obama “had a massive campaign violation” but was able to get off with a fine “because he had a different attorney general and they do it a lot differently.”
Politico reported that Obama’s 2008 campaign was fined $375,000 for failing to properly file donations totaling in excess of $1.8 million.
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