Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) appeared to re-ignite a smoldering civil war between the progressive Congressional “squad” and Democratic Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Saturday, lashing out at Democrats like Pelosi who are urging “caution” on impeaching President Donald Trump.
Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the “squad” — Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) — have spent the week challenging mainstream Democrats on several issues, including impeaching the president, but also over impeaching Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and supporting Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) in his bid to unseat Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
A true civil war between Ocasio-Cortez and Pelosi, who sets the priorities for the Democratic caucus and has largely locked Ocasio-Cortez and her progressive colleagues out of the Congressional agenda, threatened to explode over the summer, as the two lawmakers traded barbs on Twitter over everything from impeachment to a spending bill designed to relieve the pressure on border patrol and fund efforts to house and feed asylum-seekers crowding border detention facilities.
More recently, though, the two have been collaborating or at least ignoring each other in a mutually agreed-upon detente … until Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decided to open a new front in the war Saturday night, calling Democrats’ refusal to pursue impeachment against President Donald Trump a “bigger scandal” than any other currently brewing.
“At this point, the bigger national scandal isn’t the president’s lawbreaking behavior – it is the Democratic Party’s refusal to impeach him for it,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, apparently referring to allegations that Trump communicated with Ukrainin officials seeking information as to whether former Vice President Joe Biden pressured prosecutors there to spare a corporation because his son Hunter sat on the company’s board.
It’s not entirely clear if Ocasio-Cortez was targeting Pelosi specifically or launching a widespread offensive against the leaders of her own party, but what was clear was that Ocasio-Cortez made other Democrats very angry by suggesting that their behavior was worse than Trump’s.
Even fellow progressives — including author and former aide to President Jimmy Carter, James Fallows — were shocked and fired back, telling Ocasio-Cortez to cool her heels.
“IMO, this is ‘false equivalence’ of its own sort,” Fallows wrote in response on Twitter. “What Trump is doing remains objectively the biggest threat, scandal, and problem.
“Second-ranking: the silent acquiescence of the GOP Senate,” he added. “Then: it’s time for the House to act.”
Ocasio-Cortez, not one to admit when she’s wrong, decided to go after Fallows, perhaps not realizing his position of influence within progressive circles.
“It is one thing for a sitting president to break the law,” she wrote. “It’s another to let him. The integrity of our democracy isn’t threatened when a president breaks the law. It’s threatened when we do nothing about it.”
“The GOP’s silence & refusal to act shouldn’t be a surprise. Ours is,” she concluded.
Ocasio-Cortez probably won’t get what she wants out of Nancy Pelosi, even if she continues to strike out at Democratic leadership on social media. Early last week, Pelosi dismissed the idea of pursuing impeachment this close to an election, telling reporters that the issue was far too divisive, and impeachment itself was not guaranteed.
“Impeachment is a very divisive measure,” Pelosi said, “but if we have to go there, we have to go there and we can’t go there unless we have the facts. And we’ll follow the facts and follow the obstruction the president is making and make a decision when we’re ready.”
Pelosi’s opposition to impeachment proceedings is universal; she also shut down Rep. Pressley’s efforts to impeach now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh over a New York Times story accusing the Yale grad of dropping his pants at a party and enlisting his friends to help him sexually assault a female classmate. The story turned out to be thinly sourced (and previously investigated) and the woman at the center of the alleged incident denies it ever happened — something the NYT was eventually forced to admit in a correction.