WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that House Democrats were “not on a path to impeachment,” even as she accused President Trump of trying to whip her caucus into a distracting political battle by stonewalling congressional oversight.
Ms. Pelosi, buoyed by two recent victories in court over the White House, suggested that Mr. Trump was too unstable to govern the country. The president’s theatrical scrapping of Wednesday’s infrastructure meeting at the White House raised questions about his temperament and behavior, she said.
Mr. Trump had “another temper tantrum,” she told reporters at her weekly news conference at the Capitol. “Again, I pray for the president of the United States. I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.”
Her remarks — intended to belittle Mr. Trump in the same way he denigrates his political opponents — are part of a calculated campaign by the speaker to pair public comments with private calls for House Democrats to avoid being goaded into impeachment.
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Ms. Pelosi faced down calls from about 25 House Democrats who want her to move immediately on impeachment during a meeting with her caucus on Wednesday. Instead she urged them to “follow the facts” by allowing court cases to play out before passing final judgment.
Since then, a federal court on Wednesday affirmed the House’s right to obtain Mr. Trump’s financial records, the second such ruling this week.
“What really got to him,” Ms. Pelosi said, was “these court cases and the fact that the House Democratic caucus is not on a path to impeachment.”
“That’s where he wants us to be,” she told reporters, adding, “The White House is just crying out for impeachment” to divide Democrats and take the focus off the president’s failures and policy inaction.
Earlier Thursday, during a closed-door session with her caucus, Ms. Pelosi made the case more explicitly, arguing that the president hoped to provoke impeachment in order to achieve public exoneration by the Republican-controlled Senate, which acts as the final arbiter on impeachment hearings.
For the moment, Ms. Pelosi seems to have stopped a mass defection of Democrats to the pro-impeachment cause. But to do so, allies said, she must avoid the appearance that she is being soft on Mr. Trump.
That appears to mean amplifying her criticism of him, and giving public voice to opinions about the president that she has kept private until now.
On Thursday, she jokingly referenced the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows a president to be removed from office if it is determined that he is “unable to discharge the duties of the office.”
“Article 25, that’s a good idea,” she added.
An aide later said she was referring to the 25th Amendment.