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Pelosi rules out a censure of Trump: ‘If the goods are there, you must impeach’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington earlier this week. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday ruled out a congressional censure of President Trump, a move some lawmakers have suggested as a less divisive alternative to launching impeachment proceedings.

“No. I think censure is just a way out,” Pelosi told reporters. “If you’re going to go, you’ve got to go. In other words, if the goods are there, you must impeach, and censure is nice, but it is not commensurate with the violations of the Constitution, should we decide that’s the way to go.”

She added that a censure of Trump would be “a day at the beach for the president, or at his golf club, or wherever he goes.”

Pelosi, speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, continued to counsel a deliberate approach to building a case that Trump attempted to obstruct the investigation of Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. She has been resisting calls from 70 House members — all Democrats but one — to launch impeachment proceedings.

On Wednesday, Pelosi cautioned against a scenario where Trump is impeached by the Democratic-led House only to be acquitted by the Republican-led Senate.

“I don’t think you should have an inquiry unless you’re ready to impeach,” she said. “What I believe is that when we go forward, if we go forward, it has to go deep. It can’t be the Democrats impeach in the House; the Senate, in his view, exonerates. . . . This president must be held accountable.

Pelosi added that she does not “feel pressure from my members to do anything, and I have no pressure on them to do anything.”

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Pelosi spoke on a morning when Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) announced his support for launching impeachment proceedings, becoming the 69th House Democrat to do so. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is the only House Republican who has voiced support for impeachment.

“Obstruction of justice is an impeachable offense,” Higgins said in a statement. “The multiple instances of obstruction laid out in the Mueller report necessitate that the House launch an impeachment inquiry.”

Higgins had previously expressed reservations about the prospect that Trump would be acquitted by the Senate and claim a “huge victory.”

Pelosi also shared that she has reached an agreement with the Justice Department to view a “less redacted” version of the Mueller report.

House Democrats had previously insisted on access to the full report, without redactions. Pelosi said under the new agreement, “many more people than just leadership” will be able to view what Justice is offering.

She said she accepted the agreement because “I’m afraid I really don’t trust the attorney general of the United States, and I’m afraid that he may, depending on what is in there, try to, how do you say, deal with ongoing matters in a way that is not constructive for our Constitution.”

Trump went on Twitter on multiple occasions Wednesday to complain about continued scrutiny by House Democrats.

“The Dems are very unhappy with the Mueller Report, so after almost 3 years, they want a Redo, or Do Over,” he said in one tweet. “This is extreme Presidential Harassment.”

Polling during former President Bill Clinton’s scandal involving White House intern Monica Lewinsky showed that censure was a more popular course of action among the public than impeachment.

An August 1998 Washington Post-ABC News poll found 55 percent of adults nationally saying the Senate should censure or officially reprimand Clinton for his actions in the Lewinsky matter. Support support rose to 66 percent in early September, with clear majorities supporting censure through early February 1999. Support for censure dropped to 44 percent in mid-February 1999.

Throughout most of that period, over 6 in 10 Americans said the Senate should not remove Clinton from office. When they found him not guilty of impeachment charges, 64 percent approved of that finding.

Scott Clement contributed to this report.

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