(Bloomberg) -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a meeting of senior Democratic leaders that she’d prefer to see President Donald Trump “in prison” rather than pursue impeachment, Politico reported late Wednesday.
Pelosi rebuffed House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, who again asked the speaker’s permission to launch an impeachment inquiry, according to the Politico report, which cited unnamed “multiple Democratic sources familiar with” the Tuesday meeting.
The speaker told the leaders that she would rather see Trump defeated for re-election in 2020 and face prosecution after he leaves office, Politico said.
“I don’t want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison,” Politico reported Pelosi as saying to Nadler. Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne told Politico that Pelosi and several House chairmen “had a productive meeting about the state of play with the Mueller report.”
Along with Nadler, the chairmen of the Intelligence, Oversight, Ways and Means and Foreign Affairs committees were present at the gathering, Politico said.
Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday that House Democrats were on a path after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, and “we know what action we will take.” She said many voters wrongly equated impeachment with removal from the presidency, adding that Trump was “not worth” it.
Polls show that most Americans do not support impeachment and Pelosi and her deputies in the House have been proceeding cautiously. At the same time, however, several Democratic presidential candidates have been turning the issue into a campaign theme, adding to the pressure on congressional leaders.
The heated debate -- and the divisions it’s causing -- was evident as 14 of the 23 presidential hopefuls addressed a California Democratic Party convention in San Francisco last weekend.
Home-state senator Kamala Harris drew the loudest applause during her speech on Saturday when she lit into the president.
“He obstructed justice and hired an attorney general to clean up the crime scene,” Harris said. “We need to begin impeachment proceedings and we need a new commander in chief.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the clear early front-runner in the campaign, has not embraced the impeachment fervor and skipped the California event.
At a Wednesday night town hall in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that was broadcast on MSNBC, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said she came to believe that impeachment proceedings were necessary after reading “all 448 pages” of Mueller’s report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I get that this is politically tough. I get it. But some things are bigger than politics, and this matters for our democracy, not just now, but under the next president and the next president and the next president,” Warren said. “We have a constitutional responsibility here, and that’s to start this impeachment proceedings.”