Facing a Trump Stonewall, Democrats Struggle for Options to Compel Cooperation

But unless the courts move to enforce the contempt resolution, it will have no teeth, and court action takes time. When Barack Obama was president, House Republicans held Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress for his failure to provide documents and information related to the so-called Fast and Furious gun trafficking program. But it had little immediate effect.

When George W. Bush was president, the House voted to hold his chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, and the White House counsel, Harriet E. Miers, in contempt for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into the mass firings of federal prosecutors. Ms. Miers eventually agreed to testify — but by that time, Mr. Obama was president.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington and a chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she would not be willing to wait that long. “This is a really dangerous and unpredecented set of actions that the president is taking,” she said.

Ms. Jayapal said Democrats’ decision on whether to begin formal impeachment hearings would become clearer after they have three more “data points”: whether they get the special counsel’s report, unredacted; whether Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel, testifies (Mr. Trump is trying to block him from doing so); and whether the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, testifies.

“There’s a few more pieces that we still need to see,” she said.

The conversations, and Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee vote, reflect a sharp escalation of the tensions between Democrats and the White House since the release of the Mueller report. The report found no evidence that Mr. Trump had coordinated or conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 elections. But it did list at least 10 ways in which Mr. Trump may have obstructed the Mueller inquiry.

After the report’s release, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and other top Democrats urged caution on impeachment. Instead, they promised a series of hearings so Americans could judge the evidence that Mr. Mueller had gathered for themselves, and then decide whether the facts warranted impeachment.

Ms. Pelosi said that proceeding would have to be bipartisan.

But with Mr. Trump trying to keep Congress from gathering the facts, the mood in the caucus has shifted, many Democrats say.