Updated Sep 29, 2019

Pelosi's point of no return

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Although they still talk about it on-camera as an inquiry, some top House Democrats see the actual impeachment of President Trump as increasingly inevitable.

  • Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), reflecting the views of several members we talked to, said he thinks impeachment will happen by the end of 2019: "My hope is it is expeditious. I don't want the clock to run out."

Why it matters: With that, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces a new conundrum: how to keep Democrats' other priorities from deteriorating amid an investigation of President Trump's dealings with Ukraine that could overshadow everything else.

  • Several lawmakers have privately told Axios they never expected Congress to pass meaningful legislation before the 2020 elections.
  • But Republicans will try to blame Pelosi for gridlock on the Hill, and they tell me they plan to use the same playbook on Pelosi as the one she crafted just a few weeks ago — demonizing Mitch McConnell as Washington's greatest obstructionist.

Behind the scenes: Pelosi's team developed a fall plan to escalate Dems' anti-McConnell messaging, with the goal of painting him as the party's prime antagonist blocking meaningful legislation.

  • But those plans were blown up by the stunning news reports about Trump and Ukraine, and the moderate Democrats Pelosi had tried to protect began jumping aboard the impeachment train.
  • "The votes were there," a senior Dem congressional aide said.

Republicans are eager to accuse Pelosi of failing to make progress on gun reform, the USMCA trade agreement and drug pricing.

  • "This Dem-led House has managed to accomplish nothing of substance," a Trump official said. "And now that they’re going down this path of impeachment, they're going to be even more distracted. ... You bet that we're going to make sure voters are constantly reminded of this."
  • “The NRA are probably the happiest people in Washington,” a former White House official said, who said this will make it harder for Dems to blame Trump for inaction on gun regulation.

The bottom line: Pelosi has relentlessly reminded her House colleagues that Democrats regained the majority in 2018 by focusing on the issues, not by bashing Trump.

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Scoop: Trump letter dares Pelosi to hold vote on impeachment inquiry

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The White House is planning to send Speaker Nancy Pelosi a letter as soon as Friday arguing that President Trump and his team can ignore lawmakers' demands until she holds a full House vote formally approving an impeachment inquiry, 2 sources familiar with the letter tell Axios.

Why it matters: By putting in writing the case that Trump and his supporters have been making verbally for days, the White House is preparing for a court fight and arguing to the public that its resistance to Congress' requests is justified.

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Mitch McConnell: Impeachment will fail with me as Senate majority leader

Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

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"Nancy Pelosi's in the clutches of a left-wing mob. They finally convinced her to impeach the president. All of you know your Constitution. The way that impeachment stops is a Senate majority with me as majority leader."
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