A growing number of rank-and-file House Democrats, incensed by former counsel Don McGahn's empty chair in the Judiciary Committee hearing room on Tuesday, confronted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and pushed her and other leaders to act. Their impatience was running up against the speaker's preference for a more methodical approach, including already unfolding court battles, AP wrote on Wednesday.
Pelosi summoned some of them — still a small fraction of the House Democratic caucus — to a meeting of investigators to assess strategy.
Trump on Wednesday repeated his mantra about Democrats contributing to a "Witch Hunt" against him. "The Democrats are getting ZERO work done in Congress," he tweeted.
Some Democratic leaders, while backing Pelosi, signaled that a march to impeachment may become inevitable.
"We are confronting what might be the largest, broadest cover-up in American history," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters. If a House inquiry "leads to other avenues including impeachment," the Maryland Democrat said, "so be it."
Reps. Joaquin Castro of Texas and Diana DeGette of Colorado added their voices to the impeachment inquiry chorus.
"There is political risk in doing so, but there's a greater risk to our country in doing nothing," Castro said on Twitter. "This is a fight for our democracy."
Tweeted DeGette: "The facts laid out in the Mueller report, coupled with this administration's ongoing attempts to stonewall Congress, leave us no other choice."
One Republican congressman, Justin Amash of Michigan, has called for impeachment proceedings. He said Tuesday he thinks other GOP lawmakers should join him — but only after reading special counsel Robert Mueller's report carefully.
Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy dismissed Amash as out of step with House Republicans and "out of step with America." And Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said wryly of Amash's position, "I don't think it's going to be a trend-setting move."
A short time later House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler issued subpoenas for more Trump administration officials — former White House communications director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, a former aide in the White House counsel's office — for documents and testimony.
Trump's former White House counsel is the most-cited witness in Mueller's Trump-Russia investigation report, recounting the president's attempts to interfere with the probe. And that makes his silence all the more infuriating for Democrats.
Nadler gaveled open Tuesday's hearing with a stern warning that McGahn will be held in contempt for failing to appear.
"Our subpoenas are not optional," Nadler said. "We will not allow the president to stop this investigation."
However, Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the committee, spoke scornfully of Nadler's position, calling the session a "circus" and saying the chairman preferred a public "fight over fact-finding."
Democrats are "trying desperately to make something out of nothing," Collins said, in the aftermath of Mueller's report.
A lawyer for McGahn had said he would follow the president's directive and skip Tuesday's hearing, leaving the Democrats without yet another witness — and a growing debate within the party about how to respond.
Nadler said the committee would vote to hold McGahn in contempt, though that's not expected until June, after lawmakers return from the Memorial Day recess.
Democrats are encouraged by an early success in the legal battles, a Monday ruling by a federal judge against Trump on in a financial records dispute with Congress. Trump's team filed notice of appeal on Tuesday.
But Pelosi's strategy hasn't been swift enough for some lawmakers. In particular, several members of the Judiciary panel feel they must take the lead in at least launching impeachment proceedings.
They say a formal impeachment inquiry could give Democrats more standing in court, even if they stop short of a vote to remove the president.