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U.S. House Democrat says support lacking for Trump impeachment inquiry

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top U.S. House Democratic committee chairman on Wednesday appeared to rule out any imminent impeachment probe of President Donald Trump, but vowed quick court action to obtain the full, unredacted Mueller report on Russian election interference.

FILE PHOTO - House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) arrives at a House Judiciary Committee hearing titled "Oversight of the Report by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III," at which witness former White House Counsel Donald McGahn was subpoened to testify at on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told reporters that he could ultimately pursue a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump, a move that progressive Democrats and outside groups have increasingly sought since the release of a redacted version of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report in April.

But he later told CNN that there is not currently enough backing among Democrats in the House of Representatives.

“There does not appear to be support for it now. And we will see. The support may develop,” said Nadler, whose committee has jurisdiction over impeachment-related matters.

House Democratic leaders have sought repeatedly to dampen enthusiasm for impeachment, fearing that a rushed action could become a political liability for Democrats at a time when polls show voters sharply divided over the question.

“I’m not feeling any pressure,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a news conference earlier on Wednesday, when asked about calls from progressives for impeachment proceedings.

“Make no mistake: we know exactly what path we’re on. We know exactly what actions we need to take. And while that may take some more time than some people want it to take, I respect their impatience,” she said.

Nadler told reporters he expects to ask a federal court to enforce his April 19 subpoena for the full unredacted Mueller report and underlying material soon after the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives votes next Tuesday on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.

He also predicted that House Democrats would succeed in court: “I anticipate that it will be very quick. There may be an appeal and we’ll ask for an expedited appeal.”

The Judiciary Committee approved a contempt citation against Barr on May 8, on a party-line vote. That was after the attorney general defied the panel’s subpoena and refused to appear for a hearing on Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign, and Trump’s efforts to impede the probe.

With Democrats in control of the House, the contempt citation could be approved with no Republican support. But on its own, such a citation may have little impact on an administration that is stonewalling congressional inquiries.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department offered to negotiate for the release of material on condition that the House drop its contempt action against Barr, an offer that Nadler rejected.

“We’re not fools,” he said. “We’ve seen this movie before, where they negotiate in bad faith. They make ridiculous offers, they waste time. We negotiate in good faith.”

Justice Department officials were not immediately available for comment.

The full House will also vote Tuesday on whether to hold former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt for deferring to a White House direction that he not provide documents and testimony to Nadler’s committee. Other former Trump aides could also face contempt citations.

Nadler told reporters that Mueller will ultimately appear before his committee, possibly as the result of a subpoena. “Let’s just say that I’m confident he’ll come in,” he said.

Reporting by David Morgan; additional reporting by Eric Beech, David Alexander and Susan Heavey; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker