WASHINGTON - (AP) -- One day into their new House majority, several Democrats are trying to jump-start the impeachment action that many in the party have been talking about for two years. President Donald Trump pushed back on Friday, saying they're only acting because they know they can't win the White House in 2020.
His spin on the contentious topic -- Democratic leaders generally avoid even using the "I" word -- came as a newly elected Michigan Democratic congresswoman ignited a furor on Capitol Hill with a profanity-laden pledge to work to impeach Trump.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib exclaimed at an event late Thursday that Democrats were going to "impeach the mother------." According to video and comments on Twitter, she apparently made the comments during a party hosted by the liberal activist group MoveOn.
Asked about it outside a Friday morning caucus meeting of House Democrats, Tlaib smiled and kept walking. A few minutes later, she tweeted: "I will always speak truth to power." She added the hashtag, "(hash)unapologeticallyMe."
Her spokesman, Denzel McCampbell, said in a statement that Tlaib, one of only two Muslim women in Congress, "was elected to shake up Washington" and will not stay silent. "The congresswoman absolutely believes he needs to be impeached. She ran and won by making this very clear to the voters in her district," the spokesman said.
Trump seemed eager to jump in, intent on using the impeachment threat for political advantage.
"How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong" and has had the "most successful two years of any president," Trump tweeted Friday, claiming he's "the most popular Republican in party history."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that impeachment is not a priority for her new Democratic majority, but she faces pressure from the left flank to more aggressively pursue the issue. Some of her members are already ready to move forward -- California Rep. Brad Sherman and Texas Rep. Al Green introduced articles of impeachment against Trump on Thursday, the first day of the new Congress.
Sherman and Green pushed to impeach Trump in 2017 and 2018, but the Republican House blocked those resolutions twice, with the help of Democrats who said the effort was premature. Pelosi hasn't ruled out impeachment but has called it a "divisive activity" that would need support from both parties.
Even if the House should approve articles of impeachment -- very unlikely at present -- a two-thirds-majority vote to convict Trump in the Republican Senate and remove him from office would seem out of the question barring astonishing new revelations.
Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., have said they want to wait for the outcome of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and contacts with the Trump campaign.
While many Democrats might favor impeachment, those calling for it now are largely outliers. Most Democratic lawmakers campaigned on kitchen table issues such as health care and jobs and prefer to keep them at the forefront of the party's focus.
Sherman criticized the tenor of Tlaib's remarks but defended pushing for impeachment.
"It's not something I would say. I don't know what she said, but I think you respect the office," Sherman said. "And the thing we could do that most shows respect for the office is to not have someone there who has committed high crimes and misdemeanors on the one hand and is hurting the country on the other."
He dismissed suggestions that the impeachment talk distracts from the fight over the partial government shutdown, where Democrats are clashing with Trump over funding for a southern border wall.
"Does it compete for attention? Yes. So do the Lakers' games."
Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann, Lisa Mascaro, Alan Fram and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.
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