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The White House Just Popped Boehner Into a Corner With Impeachment Talk

The White House is "worried" about impeachment the way a fox is "worried" about a hen-house.

Senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer sent chins wagging Friday morning when he expressed concern that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) just might succumb to "nativist" voices in his party calling for President Obama's impeachment, and the White House did little to still those chins Friday afternoon.

There's a strain of conventional wisdom around Washington, D.C. that says Boehner's lawsuit against President Obama is really just a stealth firewall against conservative demands for apolitically disastrous impeachment, but while speaking at the Christian Science Monitor Breakfast Friday morning, Pfeiffer floated the idea that Boehner might be overtaken by the angry dolts clamoring for articles of impeachment, which include Sarah Palin and 57% of all Republicans.

Asked about the President's goals on the immigration crisis (i.e., a completely unrelated question), Pfeiffer steered the conversation onto the I Street off-ramp. Describing the GOP rift on immigration, he said that there are some who are open to reform, "and then a nativist tendency that is... been very damaging to the republican Party, politically."

He then addressed the possibility of impeachment:

"We talk about the lawsuit, and then you have Sarah Palin out there talking about impeachment, I saw a poll today that had a huge portion of the Republican base saying that they support impeaching the President. You know, I think a lot of people in this town laugh that off. I would not discount that possibility. I think that Speaker Boehner, by going down the path of this lawsuit, has opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some point in the future, and I think that the President acting on immigration reform will certainly up the likelihood that they would contemplate impeachment at some point."

Pfeiffer's remarks, when coupled with the President's June announcement that he will seek executive action on immigration by the end of the summer, amount more to a dare than a worry about the possibility of impeachment. At Friday's White House briefing, Press Secretary Josh Earnest turned up the gas under Boehner's frying pan a little more. Boehner has said the House will not seek impeachment, but when Earnest was asked what reason the White House has not to believe him, Earnest responded, "I do believe that the Speaker said, on a number of occasions, that there were not going to be steps taken by Republicans to shut down the government over health care. We did see that that happened."

"Maybe that means you have to ask him a little bit more about whether impeachment is on the table or not, maybe he can give you a more detailed answer than he has thus far," Earnest added, continuing,

"There's no doubt that there are other prominent voices in the Republican Party that have advocated impeachment, again, that's part of their agenda. The President's agenda is not focused on those kinds of political sideshows, but is actually focused on advancing an agenda that will expand economic opportunity for middle class families."

Republicans and Democrats alike have been raising money off of Boehner's lawsuit, but this appears to be a fairly organized effort for Democrats to harness the energy of an impeachment, with or without an impeachment. This puts Boehner in a quicksand pit, because with Democrats raising the specter of impeachment, he can't capitalize on it to rile up his base unless he actually impeaches, which would be disastrous for Republicans. But if he doesn't, the President and the Democrats still get to beat him up with it.

Boehner's office reacted to Pfeiffer's comments by releasing a statement so rich, Scrooge McDuck was embarrassed:

"We have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the White House is making matters worse with inattention and mixed signals. It is telling, and sad, that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border."

As Earnest noted repeatedly at Friday's briefing, House Republicans have had President Obama's emergency supplemental appropriations request, which deals with the urgent humanitarian crisis at our border, for over three weeks now, and plans to do nothing with it before they go on vacation for the rest of the summer.