The No. 3 House Democratic leader on Monday walked back comments he made a day earlier on CNN, when he said he believes the chamber will eventually open impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn criticized reporters for seizing on just one aspect of his interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
The South Carolina Democrat had been discussing his views on impeachment in light of a growing number of Democratic lawmakers calling for an inquiry to be opened when Tapper interjected to say it sounded like he thinks “the president will be impeached, or at least proceedings will begin in the House at some point, but just not right now.”
“Yes, exactly what I feel,” Clyburn said.
But on Monday, he told reporters in the Capitol he does not think impeachment was inevitable, as his remark to Tapper had been interpreted.
“I don’t know why y’all pick up one line,” Clyburn said. “I also said we must not get out in front of our committees, all in the same sentence.”
Indeed after telling Tapper that he had summarized “exactly” what he feels, Clyburn said he believes the House has “already begun” looking at impeachment because of the investigations occurring in various committees.
“We have got all of these committees doing their work. We’re having hearings. We have already won two court cases. And there are other cases that are still to be determined,” he said.
“So, why should we get out in front of this process?” Clyburn added. “Why don’t we just continue to go along? And … right now, we are winning this issue. Why should we go out and make missteps and cause us to lose a court decision that will have people saying, ‘Why didn’t you take your time? Why did you get out in front of this?’”
Earlier in the interview Clyburn said special counsel Robert S. Mueller III “has developed the grounds for impeachment” but “the House has to determine the timing for impeachment.”
“Let’s take our time and do this efficiently, not just effectively,” the majority whip said, explaining that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strategy is “to develop a process by which we can efficiently move on this issue, so that, when we get to a vote, it would be something that she calls ironclad, I call effective.”
Clyburn also said in the CNN interview that House Democrats want to educate the public on the evidence so that they don’t feel like any move toward impeachment is political.
On Monday, Clyburn sought not only to dispel the notion that he thinks impeachment is inevitable, he tried to suggest there’s a wide bridge to gap before he’d ever reach that conclusion.
“I’m probably further away from impeachment than anybody in our caucus,” he said.
“Including Pelosi?” a Roll Call reporter asked.
“Including Pelosi,” Clyburn confirmed.
Pelosi for her part declined to criticize Clyburn for clearly stepping on her message that the Democratic Caucus is not headed toward impeachment at this time.
“It’s his view,” the California Democrat said when asked about the majority whip’s CNN remarks. “Everybody has their view about this, and our committee chairs are doing a great job taking us where the facts will take us. And if Mr. Clyburn views that as inevitable in terms of impeachment then … it’s a point of view.”
Asked if she disagrees with his view, Pelosi referred to her past comments on impeachment.
“I’ve said what I’ve said about that, and I will continue to make statements about it, but not in the hallway,” the speaker said, noting she was on her way to the floor to swear in Pennsylvania’s newest congressman.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, the No. 2 Democratic leader, when asked about Clyburn’s remarks that impeachment proceedings were inevitable, said only, “We’re not getting into that.”