In the Senate, Democrats’ focus remains on piecing together possible evidence to argue that President Donald Trump engaged in obstruction of justice — an offense that legal experts have said could raise the prospect of eventual impeachment proceedings. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

House Democrats are buzzing about the possibility of President Donald Trump being impeached. But party leaders aren’t going there — at least not yet.

Top Democrats in the House and Senate know their liberal base is clamoring for a harder line, especially after reports Trump urged then-FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

But Democratic leaders first hope to secure an independent investigation into possible ties between the White House and Russia. And until there’s clear proof Trump broke the law, they say impeachment chatter does little more than distract from the party’s broader messaging.

“I’m not afraid of the ‘I’ word — it’s independent, an independent commission,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley of New York told reporters Wednesday. “That’s also the general consensus of our Democratic leadership.”

Senior Democrats want to avoid looking like they are gunning for impeachment, aides say. Not only would that undercut their calls for an independent commission but it could also scare off wary Republicans who might join Democrats in demanding an independent probe, a special prosecutor or both.

“There’s a reason that most of my colleagues have” stopped short of suggesting impeachment is in the offing, liberal Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told POLITICO. “Not the least of which is, we need to get a lot more facts before us before you could make a conclusion like that.”

But while House Democratic leaders are holding their fire and encouraging members to do the same, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to rein in their rank-and-file.

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SOURCE: Politico, Heather Caygle and Elana Schor