Well, Nancy Pelosi sure got an explosive reaction.
Not long after the House speaker accused President Trump of a "cover-up," the president hastily assembled reporters in the Rose Garden to forcefully deny her charge, denounce the Mueller investigation once again and rip the press as well.
He had just stormed out of a meeting with Pelosi and Chuck Schumer about pursuing an infrastructure plan. Trump, in his impromptu remarks and in response to questions, made clear that he couldn't negotiate with the Democratic leaders in light of Pelosi's slam and the endless investigations after the Mueller "witch hunt."
Chuck and Nancy promptly held a counter-news conference and talked about ... infrastructure.
It was nothing short of surreal. Pelosi made no reference to her time-bomb of a comment. "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," she had told reporters.
Instead, she went on about the importance of building projects, harkening back to Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt. And Schumer said Trump had seized on a "pre-planned excuse" to blow up the meeting. They took no questions.
Pelosi doubled down at a later event with the Center for American Progress, saying "this president is obstructing justice ... and that could be an impeachable offense."
Trump was already mad, as we can tell from a morning tweetstorm, and the "cover-up" rhetoric was the tipping point. Still, there's no question this was a tactical misstep by Pelosi. You don't hurl a charge against anyone you're about to hold a business meeting with, especially a president who has built his career on counterpunching. What, did she think he wouldn't notice? She was surrounded by cameras.
And even if Trump was looking to back out of a bipartisan building plan, she sure gave him cover.
And yet Pelosi, in her own way, was trying to find a middle ground. She is under enormous pressure from her own side to greenlight impeachment proceedings. More of her prominent members, including those on the Judiciary Committee, are coming out for the I-word. And it's easy to pander to the three-quarters of Democrats who favor impeachment in recent polls.
But the speaker is also savvy enough to know that actual impeachment hearings would obliterate the party's agenda, energize the hell out of Trump's base and ultimately fail in the Senate, just as we head into the 2020 elections.
Pelosi's cover-up language, in my view, was an attempt to toss red meat at the left wing of her party without serving the full impeachment buffet. She's trying to show she shares their colleagues' concerns about the accusations against the president, yet settling for a sort of Impeachment Lite.
Trump isn't helping himself by flatly refusing every subpoena request, including the one for Don McGahn this week. Steve Mnuchin also took a hit when The Washington Post revealed that a staff lawyer's memo (which the Treasury boss says he never saw) said the department had no choice but to give Congress his tax returns.
The president is doing this as part of his always-on-offense strategy, and in part because he views the Hill probes as a "do-over" for a Mueller investigation that recommended no criminal charges. He's well aware that more Democrats are citing his lack of cooperation as a reason to pursue impeachment, which would give them broader power to obtain information. Either he's calling their bluff or believes an actual impeachment would play out to his benefit.
What we're left with an Impeachment in All But Name, as the president and his Democratic adversaries keep raising the stakes. The danger here is that the momentum builds to the point that the country is plunged into an actual impeachment that, in the end, would resolve nothing.