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Profane Impeachment Call From Freshman Democrat Gets Quick Rebuke From Top Democrats

Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, hours after being sworn in on the House floor, profanely called to impeach the president, prompting her own leaders to distance themselves from her comments.
Carolyn Kaster
Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, hours after being sworn in on the House floor, profanely called to impeach the president, prompting her own leaders to distance themselves from her comments.

Updated at 3:27 p.m. ET

Just hours after Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., cautioned against moving toward impeaching President Trump, a freshman Democrat profanely vowed to remove the president.

Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the two women who made history for being sworn in as the first Muslim women in Congress, told supporters Thursday night:

"And when your son looks at you and says, 'Mama, look, you won. Bullies don't win,' and I said, 'Baby, they don't,' because we're gonna go in there, and we're going to go in there and we're going to impeach the motherf*****."

The comments were captured on camera and quickly exposed the long-simmering debate inside the Democratic Party about the appropriate strategy to manage expectations for how the House will handle impeachment.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., who would preside over any impeachment proceedings, was quick to bat down the comments in an interview on CNN on Friday morning.

"I don't like that language," Nadler said. "More to the point, I disagree with what she said. It is too early to talk about that intelligently. We have to follow the facts and get the facts."

Pelosi also said she didn't like the use of the expletive, saying at a town hall on MSNBC, "I probably have a generational reaction to it," but added, "I'm not in the censorship business. I don't like that language; I wouldn't use that language, but I wouldn't establish language standards for my colleagues."

The speaker also tried to downplay the incident, saying, "I don't think it's anything worse than what the president has said" and "I don't think we should make a big deal out of it."

Pelosi has repeatedly argued that the position of the caucus is to wait to see what special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation finds about any allegations of illegal behavior by the president.

Pelosi, in an interview on NBC's Today show before she took the gavel, emphasized the need for evidence just hours before Tlaib's comments.

"We have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report," she said. "We shouldn't be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn't avoid impeachment for a political reason. So we'll just have to see how it comes."

The early fight over the issue illustrates the challenge Pelosi faces as she takes over as the leader of her party. Since Trump took office, there has been a loud and steady drumbeat for impeachment on the left, while those Democrats representing swing districts and states caution that igniting a firestorm over the issue only emboldens the president's base and could backfire heading into the 2020 presidential election.

President Trump didn't mention Tlaib by name but questioned any suggestion he should be impeached on Twitter on Friday morning.

Later, when asked about Tlaib's comments at a press conference in the Rose Garden, the president said "You can't impeach somebody who is doing a great job."

He told reporters he didn't know the freshman Democrat, but said her comments were "disgraceful."

"I think she dishonored herself and I think she dishonored her family," Trump said.

The president also said the issue of impeachment came up in the meeting with congressional leaders on the shutdown and Pelosi told him "we're not looking to impeach you."

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy also pounced on the issue on Friday, calling on Pelosi as speaker to publicly denounce the language and arguing the remarks signaled Democrats aren't serious about bipartisanship.

"How do you work with anybody if this is what they really have planned?" McCarthy said to reporters at the Capitol, noting that both parties are still trying to find a compromise to end the partial government shutdown.

But Tlaib stood her ground, tweeting with the hashtag "unapologeticallyMe" that "I will always speak truth to power."

Pelosi's California colleague, Rep. Brad Sherman, quietly reintroduced the same articles of impeachment he filed in 2017 on the first day Democrats took control of the House.

He called for hearings in a written statement, but also noted, "I understand that a majority of our Democratic Caucus will want to wait until Special Counsel Robert Mueller completes his report, which I would hope will be issued in the next two to three months."

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Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.