President Trump seized on a profane and viral comment suggesting his impeachment from a freshman Democratic lawmaker Friday, declaring “you can’t impeach somebody that’s doing a great job.”
He went on to claim that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had told him in the private White House meeting, “We’re not looking to impeach you” — a comment he repeated with satisfaction.
“I said, ‘That’s good, Nancy, that’s good,’” Trump said during an hour-long impromptu Rose Garden news conference called after he met with congressional leaders to discuss the two-week-old government shutdown.
Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesman, subsequently tweeted that “Trump brought up impeachment” in his opening comments at the meeting. “Speaker Pelosi made clear that today’s meeting was about re-opening government, not impeachment.”
Pelosi has consistently sought to tamp down the ardor that some Democrats feel about impeaching Trump. But the videotaped remark by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), made at a Thursday night reception hosted by the advocacy group MoveOn at a bar near the Capitol, reignited the issue.
Democrats would “impeach the motherf-----,” Tlaib claimed, according to the video.
Tlaib stood by the comment in tweets she sent Friday — “I will always speak truth to power,” she said in one — but would not answer questions from Capitol Hill reporters about it.
Trump went on to lambaste Tlaib, calling the comment “disgraceful.”
“I thought that was a great dishonor to her and to her family,” said Trump, who has been quoted as using profanities in the past, though not in as public a setting as Tlaib. “I thought it was highly disrespectful to the United States of America.”
Earlier in the day, Trump had responded to the notion of impeachment in a pair of tweets that seemed to be inspired by Tlaib, though they did not mention her directly.
“They only want to impeach me because they know they can’t win in 2020, too much success!” Trump wrote in one.
Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have sought to hush immediate talk of impeachment, counseling that they should wait for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to file a report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Impeachment is a very divisive approach to take and we shouldn’t take it ... without the facts,” Pelosi said during an MSNBC town hall taped Friday morning at Trinity University in Washington, her alma mater.
She said Friday that people’s desire to impeach Trump is “legitimate” but indicated that the 2020 election could be a better way to boot the president.
Under the Constitution, presidents can be impeached and removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Several Democrats have floated impeachment, some dating back to the firing of former FBI director James B. Comey in April 2017. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) on Friday re introduced articles of impeachment against Trump, whom he accused of obstructing justice by firing Comey, among other alleged misdeeds.
Trump’s job approval among Republicans was 88 percent in December, according to Gallup polling. That’s lower than that of President George W. Bush in December 2002 when he had a 92 percent approval rating among Republicans on average.
Trump’s overall approval rating among Americans averaged 39 percent in December, according to Gallup. That’s lower than most other presidents at that time in their presidencies.
It was unclear Friday how much restraint Democrats would show in talking about impeachment. Several prominent Democrats quickly distanced themselves from Tlaib’s comments Friday.
“We ought to be focused on getting people back to work, getting this government operational,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) said. “I don’t believe the entire Democratic caucus ought to be held responsible for whatever I may say, and I don’t think we should be held responsible for what any other single member may say.”
“Well, passions are running high,” Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said on CNN. “Let’s just leave it at that, okay?”
She then repeated Pelosi’s line about the need to let the Mueller investigation play out. “Then we’ll take it from there,” she said.
Republicans, meanwhile, sought to turn the tables on Democrats, claiming they aren’t interested in getting things done.
“Look at the brand new elected congresswoman and her language,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Fox News, referring to Tlaib. “Their whole focus here is to try and attack this president when we’re trying to move America forward.”
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.