Does House Speaker Nancy Pelosi really believe Putin has something on President Donald Trump?
She was asked that question at her press conference Thursday. She didn't quite answer definitively.
But back up for a second. While Pelosi has been asking what Russia has on Trump for a couple years now, she sparked quite the furor when she asked again after longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone was indicted and charged last week.
She also raised the stakes on that question a bit by linking it to the idea of witness tampering, which some of her colleagues believe Trump did in threatening his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Twitter.
Here is the statement, from Jan. 25:
“The indictment of Roger Stone makes clear that there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election and subvert the will of the American people. It is staggering that the President has chosen to surround himself with people who violated the integrity of our democracy and lied to the FBI and Congress about it.
“In the face of 37 indictments, the President’s continued actions to undermine the Special Counsel investigation raise the questions: what does Putin have on the President, politically, personally or financially? Why has the Trump Administration continued to discuss pulling the U.S. out of NATO, which would be a massive victory for Putin?
“Lying to Congress and witness tampering constitute grave crimes. All who commit these illegal acts should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. We cannot allow any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from appearing before Congress.
Back to today. Asked by CNN's Manu Raju if she really believes the Kremlin has something on the president. Pelosi eventually got around to the word "yeah," but, as Pelosi often does, she might not have been referring specifically to the question asked, but to parts of her answer, perhaps reaffirming that she has asked before what Putin has on Trump.
Her answer: "I think it's a question. But by the way, I've been asking that question for two years.... I've always said that. What is this? Something is wrong with this picture. Yeah."
I'm left feeling like she does believe the Kremlin has kompromat on the president, but Pelosi is not ready to make such a black and white declaration. The reason would be that her position on impeachment is to wait until the special counsel is done with the investigation. Declaring outright that Trump is beholden to Russia would seem to require immediate action in the House. Witness tampering would also seem to require immediate action. There is, however, a large potential downside in political backlash and civil unrest that could come with an impeachment proceeding. Most Democrats don't want to go there until it is all spelled out in charging documents and impossible to ignore.
Also, in weighing Pelosi's words, remember that she was a member of the Intelligence Committee for many years, and that she maintains an ex-officio seat as the Democratic leader.
Here's video of the question and answer: