Clyburn: On second thought, I'm farther from impeachment than any Democrat

They may call him the Majority Whip, but Rep. James Clyburn found out who calls the shots in the House Democratic caucus. After trotting out some impeachment talk on Sunday, Clyburn went into a “private leadership meeting” with Nancy Pelosi yesterday evening. When he emerged, Clyburn explained that he’s so far from impeaching Donald Trump that he can barely see any of his colleagues:

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn on Monday walked back remarks suggesting that Democrats will impeach President Donald Trump, reversing course to say he’s “farther” from backing impeachment than most of his caucus.

Clyburn’s comments came after a private leadership meeting Monday evening in which Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated that she didn’t support launching impeachment proceedings right now despite a growing push within the caucus.

“I’m probably farther away from impeachment than anybody in our caucus,” Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters Monday night. “We will not get out in front of our committees. We’ll see what the committees come up with. I’ve said that forever.”

Asked by POLITICO whether he thought impeachment proceedings were inevitable, Clyburn simply said no.

So much for the “good cop/bad cop” routine that seemed to be emerging in Democratic leadership. The House Democratic caucus has just one cop, and her name is not Jim Clyburn.

It’s not just Clyburn that’s keeping the sheriff busy. Recruitment for impeachment continues, even if Clyburn’s reversal might ding the momentum. Another meeting last night was intended to lay down the law, so to speak:

Unwilling to wait for Nancy Pelosi to embrace their cause, pro-impeachment House Democrats have begun recruiting fellow lawmakers to their camp in a bid to put more pressure on the House Speaker.

The effort has been described by one lawmaker as “organic.” But the goal is clear: the lawmakers are hoping to build a critical mass of members that will force Pelosi to choose between defying the majority of her own caucus or moving forward with a process of removing the president from office—a step that has not been taken on in more than 20 years. …

When lawmakers returned from the Memorial Day recess on Monday, Democratic leadership staged a show of force for Pelosi’s line on impeachment during a closed-door members’ meeting. Some lawmakers, including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the caucus chair, spoke out to support her. Jeffries invoked a Ben Franklin quote, saying they were in danger of being governed by passion, not reason.

The Speaker, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting, expressed concerns that the public still doesn’t understand how the process of impeachment would play out. She noted that in her time over the recess in California well educated voters didn’t seem to understand that impeachment proceedings would not necessarily result in Trump’s immediate ouster from office.

But even within Pelosi’s own leadership ranks there have been murmurs of a desire to give impeachment proceedings a more sympathetic reception publicly. During the Monday meeting, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.)—the only member of leadership to explicitly endorse an impeachment inquiry—challenged lawmakers to push two messages during TV appearances: the party’s domestic agenda and their belief that the president wasn’t above the law. Pelosi, pointing back at him, said: “Everyone should heed your advice, including you”—in what was interpreted as a shot at the congressman’s penchant to emphasize the latter and not the former during his own TV hits.

So how deep has this impeachment momentum gone into the House Democratic caucus? The New York Times’ whip count shows that the momentum is real, but so is its opposition. As of noon yesterday, 56 House Democrats want an impeachment inquiry, while 59 publicly oppose — or at least refuse to support — such a move. The other 120 apparently don’t want to discuss it, which speaks volumes about the project and of Pelosi’s sway over the caucus. As James Clyburn can attest.