ST. PETERSBURG — Democrats playing up impeachment talk on the campaign trail would hand a "gift" to Republicans and instead should focus on economic issues facing Americans, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday.
"First of all, we don't know everything there is," Pelosi said, referring to ongoing probes into the Russian influence on the election. "We want the truth.
"Anybody who wants to talk about impeachment in this election, you're giving a gift to the Republicans, because that's just all they want to hear, that we want to win because we want to impeach."
Pelosi pitched the Democrats' "A Better Deal" plan that was formed after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton and is part of an election strategy Pelosi hopes will retake the House and restore her to speaker.
"I don't even advocate for people talking about Donald Trump," she told the Times' editorial board. "It's about a more positive agenda — better jobs, better pay, better future."
Some liberals are agitating for impeachment and Republicans have begun to use it to rally their base heading into a challenging election. One Democratic candidate not taking Pelosi's advice is Alan Grayson of Orlando, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Darren Soto and criticized him for not pushing for impeachment. Soto, like Pelosi, says it's early.
If there is evidence after the investigations — which Trump has called a "witch hunt" — any move should be done on a bipartisan basis, Pelosi said.
"It hurts our country to have to undergo it unless it's self-evident."
The California Democrat spoke to the Times prior to a Democratic fundraising event with Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg. She said holding Crist's seat — and that of Winter Park Rep. Stephanie Murphy — is key to winning the House.
Pelosi also named four Florida seats the party is trying to flip: Two in Miami held by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring, and Carlos Curbelo; the one held by Rep. Brian Mast of Palm City and the seat held by Rep. Ron DeSantis of Palm Coast, who is running for governor.
She arrived at the interview armed with a piece of paper and read verbatim Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's recent comments about the GOP tax law.
"There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they're going to take the money they're saving and reinvest it in American workers," Rubio told the Economist magazine. "In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker."
Rubio voted for the bill but expressed criticism at the time as he pushed for a more generous child tax credit. Democrats gleefully jumped on his comments and will likely recycle them throughout the campaign year. "He said what the people know," said Pelosi.
Pelosi, who served as House speaker from 2007-11, is rejecting calls from some Democrats to step aside, while Republicans are eager to again use her as an election-year boogeyman.
"If I were not effective, they wouldn't be coming after me," she said.
Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to take back the House.