For Pelosi and many others, the images of Wednesday’s violence are haunting — rioters in tactical gear storming through the Capitol, ransacking offices, including her own, before turning on police, attempting to crush one in a doorway and dragging another from the building and beating him with a flag pole. Hours earlier, Trump had instructed his supporters to march to the Capitol, vowing the election was rigged and he would never concede.
As she steers her caucus through the emotional wreckage of the attack, Pelosi has also, once again, become the lead voice on impeaching a president who has also been one of her biggest antagonists for four years. Unlike the long on-ramp to her support for impeachment in 2019, this time Pelosi embraced the move within a matter of hours.
“One of the things that people don’t appreciate about her is she has a really heartfelt, deep reverence for our Capitol, democracy and the presidency,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), a close ally of the speaker.
The rest of Pelosi’s caucus has quickly come to the same conclusion as her, with very few exceptions. Democrats announced Monday they will vote Wednesday to impeach Trump after securing enough votes to do so, unless Vice President Mike Pence takes unilateral action before then to declare the president unfit for office.
It’s a remarkable display of caucus unity for Pelosi, who fought her way back to the speakership two years ago after a group of Democratic objectors tried to end her long leadership tenure. And many in her caucus were already predicting a tense atmosphere within the caucus over the next two years, which they saw as inevitable when a big-tent party has such a razor-thin majority.
Instead, nearly every single House Democrat — including freshmen who were sworn in just days ago — quickly lined up in favor of impeachment.
Even some of the caucus’ most pro-impeachment Democrats were shocked by the speed of their caucus and their leadership’s support.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — who was pulled from the chamber just as rioters breached the Capitol on Wednesday — began talking about impeachment almost immediately after she reached a secure location. She was in the same room as Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and a handful of others.
As they sat together for hours, Omar approached House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to tell him she would draft an article of impeachment for Trump’s role inciting the riots. He encouraged her to do what she needed to, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.
Across the Capitol complex, a group of House Judiciary members — Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Ted Lieu of California — were also barricaded inside an office together as they first floated the idea of drafting more impeachment articles.
As those Democrats quickly began circulating their draft, Pelosi, too, was on her phone nonstop. Since the attack, she has spoken to nearly every member of her caucus, fielding texts and calls late into the night — not unlike the Democrats’ first path to impeachment in 2019.
Twenty-four hours after the Capitol attack began, Pelosi took to the podium to deliver a decisive warning — Trump was a seditious threat to the country and if Pence didn’t take immediate action to remove him, Democrats would.
Speaking in a building nearly empty but for the staff working to repair the damage, Pelosi described Trump’s role in “the gleeful desecration of the U.S. Capitol” and the targeting of members of Congress as “horrors that will forever stain our nation’s history.”
Two years ago, Pelosi spent months carefully managing every step her caucus took toward impeaching Trump. She listened carefully to the moderate freshmen who helped Democrats win back the House, and only vowed to move ahead when a sizable group of them — all with a background in national security — announced their decision to vote yes.
Democrats across the caucus, including those national security-focused members, say the decision to impeach was simpler after what they lived through Wednesday.
“I genuinely believe people were barricaded in their offices making decisions like this,” Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) said in an interview on her decision to support impeachment. “There’s nothing more clarifying than when your life is in danger.”