Donald Trump should be sent to "prison," US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told fellow Democrats in a closed-door meeting about whether to launch impeachment proceedings against the president, Politico reported Thursday. Pelosi, Trump's political nemesis in Congress, has long stated she is not ready to proceed with what would be a deeply divisive impeachment action, and that she would prefer to see the president defeated at the ballot box next year. But in a meeting late Tuesday with House committee chairmen, she clashed with Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler over whether to begin an impeachment inquiry, using language that ramped up the rhetoric surrounding top Democrats and Trump.
"I don't want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison," Pelosi said, according to Politico which cited multiple Democratic sources familiar with the meeting. Pelosi prefers to see Trump lose the 2020 election and then face prosecution for his alleged crimes, the sources told the US media outlet.
Many Democrats say they believe Trump broke the law by allegedly seeking to obstruct investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 US election. He is also accused of paying pre-election hush money to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump, and of violating constitutional prohibitions on presidents receiving financial benefits from foreign governments.
But Pelosi has argued that launching an impeachment inquiry should only be done if there is sufficient public support and significant bipartisan backing. Polls show a majority of Americans currently oppose impeachment, and to date only one House Republican has expressed support for removing the president.
Asked about Pelosi's "prison" comment, White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp offered an acerbic response. "How shocking. The Democrats are radical and out of touch," and refusing to work with the president on issues like the current crisis along the US border with Mexico, Schlapp told Fox News.
"They're more focused on attacking this president, undermining this president, than they are to solving the (country's) major problems." Trump also had fresh criticism of the first and only female speaker of the House. "I call her nervous Nancy," Trump told Fox. "Nancy Pelosi is a disaster.... And let her do what she wants. You know what, I think they're in big trouble."
Pelosi has toughened her language about the president in recent weeks. She has said Trump "is engaged in a cover-up" and that his staff and family should stage an "intervention" with the president. She has also sought to project unity within her Democratic Party on the path forward regarding impeachment.
"Make no mistake, we know exactly what path we're on," she told reporters Wednesday. "We know exactly what actions we need to take." With Trump's administration stonewalling various Democratic-led investigations, several of the party's lawmakers have publicly called for impeachment. Many of them point to the report by special counsel Robert Mueller as confirmation of Trump's wrongdoing.
The report did not find any clear evidence to charge members of Trump's campaign with conspiring with Russia, but neither did it exonerate the president on obstruction of justice. Rather, Mueller outlined 10 instances of potential obstruction that he uncovered during the probe.
A Pelosi spokeswoman, Ashley Etienne, said Pelosi and the chairmen had a "productive meeting" about the state of play with Mueller's report. "They agreed to keep all options on the table," Etienne said.