Pelosi downplays House Dem support for Trump impeachment, says ‘it's not even close’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday downplayed the support inside her caucus for impeaching President Trump, saying House Democrats who oppose it outnumber those vocally pushing for it.

“It's not even close in our caucus,” Pelosi said during an on-stage interview at the Fiscal Summit in Washington hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

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Pelosi was responding to a question about whether she would move forward with impeachment if a majority of her caucus supported it. The speaker, who has resisted impeachment so far despite growing calls from the progressive wing of her party, declined to say. “Why are we speculating on hypotheticals?” she asked.

Still, Pelosi didn’t rule out impeachment.

“It's not off the table,” the speaker said, before adding, “I don't think you should impeach for political reasons and I don't think you should not impeach for political reasons.”

“It's not about politics,” Pelosi said. “It's not about Democrats and Republicans. It’s not about partisanship. It's about patriotism to our country.”

The recent public statement from Robert Mueller, the special counsel who led the Russia investigation, emphasizing that his report did not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice accusations has triggered an avalanche of calls from Democrats to begin impeachment. While Pelosi has been reluctant to embrace that strategy, she reportedly recently told Democrats she ultimately wants to see Trump “in prison."

Trump blasted Pelosi over that statement, saying, "Nervous Nancy Pelosi is a disgrace to herself and her family for having made such a disgusting statement," adding, "There is no evidence for such a thing to have been said."

Pelosi's comments Tuesday come the same day Democrats are pushing a resolution through the House that would make it easier to sue Trump's administration and potential witnesses, paving the way for legal action against those who defy subpoenas in Congress' Russia probe and other investigations.

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The House resolution would authorize lawsuits against Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn for defying subpoenas pertaining to special counsel Robert Mueller's report. It also would empower committee chairmen to take legal action to enforce subpoenas without a vote of the full House, as long as they have approval from a bipartisan group of House leaders.

Tuesday's vote reflects a new strategy for Democrats, who have moved toward lawsuits and away from criminal contempt as they investigate the Trump administration. Criminal contempt be referred to the Justice Department, where it would certainly be rejected. In the courts, meanwhile, Democrats have scored some early wins over Trump.

It's unclear how quickly Democrats will act once the resolution is approved. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler signaled on Monday that they will hold off on suing Barr after the panel struck a deal with the Justice Department to receive some underlying materials from Mueller's report. Nadler said the administration will provide some of Mueller's "most important files" and all members of the committee will be able to view them.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.