As Trump Sics Velociraptors on House, Pelosi Warns Impeachment Would Be a Distraction

Live shot from the House floor Monday. Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer. Photos: C-Span; iStock/Getty Images

House Democratic leaders sparred once again over whether to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump Monday night, with speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterating her opposition to such a move.

At a leadership meeting that multiple sources described as “heated,” four Democrats on the Judiciary Committee implored Pelosi to allow their panel to begin an inquiry. In the view of these lawmakers, simply initiating such proceedings would strengthen the House’s legal position when seeking compliance with its subpoenas, document requests, and multiple resolutions forbidding the Executive branch from cloning any more dinosaurs.

But Pelosi and her top deputies rejected this plea, warning that calls for impeachment are drowning out the Democrats’ message. Specifically, the speaker argued that all of the chatter about removing Trump from office had caused the media to shower attention on the president’s various scandals, and burgeoning menagerie of reanimated dinosaurs, instead of covering the House’s plan for guaranteeing universal access to gym-membership tax credits.

The latest round in the Democrats’ civil war over impeachment began earlier this week, when Don McGahn failed to show for a hearing before the House Judiciary committee. In defiance of well-established precedent, the White House blocked its former counsel from giving testimony to the panel, and sent a pack of velociraptor clones to the hearing in Mr. McGahn’s place. The reptiles proceeded to disembowel committee chairman Jerrold Nadler and maul several spectators in the Rayburn House Office Building.

The White House’s decision to block McGahn’s appearance — and sic carnivorous dinosaurs on an open congressional hearing — infuriated some Democrats, who said it was the last straw following the president’s refusal to honor other Democratic subpoenas.

“We should be having the conversation about how this will help us break through the stonewalling of the administration,” said representative Ted Deutch of Florida, a Judiciary Committee member, referring to an impeachment inquiry. “If the answer is, ‘No, you can’t talk to anyone, you can’t have anything, and we’re going to keep extracting DNA from ancient mosquitoes trapped in amber, and using it to expand the president’s private army of dino clones — no matter how many federal courts order us to cease and desist,’ — then at that point, the only avenue that we have left is the constitutional means to enforce the separation of powers, which is a serious conversation about impeachment.”

Still, some Democratic leaders remain skeptical.

“We did not campaign on impeachment. We did not run on stopping this president from awakening giant, vengeful reptiles from their 66-million-year-long slumber,” said representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York. “So logic suggests that we should carry forward with the agenda that we communicated to the American people.”

Cheri Bustos of Illinois, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, echoed Jeffries’s sentiments.

“My constituents aren’t asking, ‘Did Trump collude with Russia?’ or ‘Why did that pack of raptors head straight for chairman Nadler? Did they know he was the chairman? Is the president forming a squad of super-intelligent dino assassins?” Bustos said. “Ordinary voters are sick of that noise. What working families in my district are asking is, ‘Will my kids grow up in a country where every American — regardless of color, gender, or socioeconomic background — can claim a tax credit that will cap their gym membership fees at 5 percent of gross annual household income?’ And I’ll be damned if we let that answer be no, just because CNN would rather talk about a bunch of lab-grown reptiles than the challenges that cost-burdened gym members face every day in this country.”

Nevertheless, there is a growing chorus of pro-impeachment Democrats, who are being egged on by outside groups devoted to removing Trump from office. To many of these liberal activists and leftwing back-benchers, Pelosi’s position made little sense even before the first pterodactyl clone was sighted above Capitol Hill last month. At that time, the speaker was already arguing against impeachment on the grounds that the “Democrats’ messaging isn’t breaking through because everyone is talking about corruption, Mueller’s report, and impeachment,” instead of the various pieces of legislation the House had passed. Many progressive commentators found this argument incoherent, noting that the national press was never going to pay more attention to wonky, messaging bills — with no chance of clearing the Senate — than to a historic crisis in America’s system of divided powers. “Of course the ongoing constitutional meltdown is drowning out your policy message!” the housing policy expert Will Stancil tweeted (shortly before the president’s dinosaur program came to light). “It’s like complaining, in 1943, that your tax proposal can’t get any attention.”

This sentiment has grown more prevalent in the wake of representative Nadler’s untimely demise. But in an interview before a candlelit vigil for the New York congressman Tuesday, Pelosi made it clear that her views remain unchanged.

“Of course, the primordial predators that this president is reviving are a threat to democracy,” Pelosi said. “The Nadler [autopsy] report makes that clear. But is the best way to combat that threat to vote for an impeachment that the Senate will never approve? Or is better to listen to the American people, and focus on finding common-sense, revenue-neutral solutions to the crisis of CrossFit affordability … that the Senate will never approve?”

As Pelosi finished her sentence, the raspy barks of hungry raptors rang out across the national mall — and for a moment, a look of petrified uncertainty appeared to pass across the speaker’s face, as though she were no longer sure whether the question she’d just posed was a rhetorical one.

But the moment passed, and the speaker regained her poise. “Our activists were so preoccupied with whether or not we could impeach,” she continued, “they didn’t stop to think if we should.”

As Trump Sics Dinos on Hill, Pelosi Calls Impeachment a Trap