In a bit of election-year gamesmanship, a top aide to President Obama warned Friday against ruling out an attempt by House Republicans to impeach the president at some point during the remainder of his second term.
"I think a lot of people in this town laugh that off," said Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Obama, while speaking at a breakfast with reporters in Washington sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. "I would not discount that possibility."
Noting rising calls for impeachment among some in the GOP, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Pfeiffer said House Speaker John Boehner "opened the door" to considering such a step after he moved to sue Obama over executive actions.
Part of the White House's messaging strategy has long been to paint House Republicans as extreme as possible, so in that vein, any loose talk of impeachment sits right in its wheelhouse. But Pfeiffer was quick to add that he did not think impeachment proceedings "would be good for the president," saying it was "very serious thing."
He dismissed out of hand the notion that Obama has abused his executive authority to a point where there would be grounds for such a move. At the same time, there was little doubt that Pfeiffer views the consternation that Obama's actions provoke as good for the president and Democrats overall. GOP criticism of the White House "is not going to cause us to trim our sails," he said.
The administration is studying ways to ease the child-migrant crisis at the border through executive action, as well as to provide some relief to some undocumented immigrants facing deportation—something Pfeiffer expects to provoke an "aggressive" response from Republicans.
Pfeiffer also addressed the potential 2016 presidential field, downplaying any suggestion that Hillary Clinton was trying to separate himself from Obama's foreign policy. "She has been incredibly loyal to the president," he said. "I don't think she's trying to distance herself."
Asked about possible GOP candidates for president, Pfeiffer criticized Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas as being "deeply out of step" with the country.
Pfeiffer was asked whether he would rather run against Cruz or Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Grinning, he responded by saying that was like "Would you rather have ice cream or cake?"
He also said he finds the idea of a run by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky "intriguing," saying that Paul is "the only Republican who has articulated a message that is potentially appealing to younger Americans."
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