Obama Aide Tweaks GOP on Impeachment

Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to the president, says Boehner “opened the door” to impeachment proceedings by suing the president.

Dan Pfeiffer at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.
National Journal
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James Oliphant
July 25, 2014, 7:04 a.m.

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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