WASHINGTON (September 11, 2019)—House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, reflected the Democrats' muddled message on presidential impeachment in a press conference Wednesday, first saying the House is not currently conducting an inquiry, then later walking that back.
Hoyer responded to a direct question asking whether the House is in the middle of a formal inquiry with "No."
"The delineation ought to be whether or not they're considering a resolution of impeachment," he said.
Clearly expressing the party's messaging on impeachment—whether investigation or formal proceeding—has proved difficult for Democrats, which Hoyer suggested as he said he didn't want to be "simplistic" nor "quibble on words."
But last month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-New York, told CNN that the committee was undergoing "formal impeachment proceedings," adding the committee is investigating available evidence and aimed to vote on bringing articles of impeachment to the House floor by the end of the year.
And according to a lawsuit brought by the judiciary panel against former White House counsel Don McGahn, "articles of impeachment already have been introduced and referred to the Judiciary Committee in this Congress."
After appearing to contradict Nadler, Hoyer clarified his comments in a statement shortly after the press conference: "I thought the question was in regards to whether the full House is actively considering articles of impeachment, which we are not at this time…I strongly support Chairman Nadler and the Judiciary Committee Democrats as they proceed with their investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House."
His statements came just a day before the House Judiciary Committee was set to vote on new procedures for the impeachment inquiry, including whether subcommittees should be involved in the probe, a move that may expedite the process for Democrats.
So far, 134 House members have said they are supporting impeachment or at least the impeachment inquiry, according to CNN.
Several Democratic presidential candidates also have publicly supported impeachment, including Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Beto O'Rourke. Some, such as Bernie Sanders, have toned down their language to focus on the necessity of an inquiry to determine if the president committed acts that could be grounds for impeachment.
The issue has divided the party, with some members openly calling for impeachment, while others, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, claim it could hurt the party, especially leading up to the 2020 election.
"The fear is that you will be exclusively focused on it," Hoyer told reporters at his press conference, "to the exclusion of all the other things we need to do in the Congress of the United States."