Mr. Kean used Facebook to call Mr. Malinowski a “full-time Trump protester.” On Friday, the House Republicans’ campaign arm blasted Mr. Malinowski’s “impeachment crusade” as “a perfect example that the socialist Democrats don’t give a damn about the facts.”
But Mr. Malinowski’s district is evenly split; Hillary Clinton beat Mr. Trump there by one percentage point in 2016. For those like Representative Jeff Van Drew, a Democrat whose conservative southern New Jersey district went heavily for Mr. Trump, the impeachment issue presents a much trickier political challenge.
Mr. Van Drew, a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs who prides himself on working with Republicans, said he is trying to focus on policy issues like lowering health care costs and revamping immigration laws. But when he said he was “done with” any talk of impeachment, he drew a backlash from his more liberal constituents.
“What I meant was, it isn’t time to ignore or forget about this issue, that we can continue to evaluate it,” Mr. Van Drew said. “Keep it on the burner, keep it on a slow boil, but let’s really do some other stuff.”
Keeping impeachment on “a slow boil” — while talking tough and turning to the courts to force Mr. Trump to comply with congressional subpoenas — is the Pelosi strategy. After Mr. Trump said he would accept opposition research from a foreign government, Ms. Pelosi accused him of engaging in a “criminal cover-up.”
But she did not budge from her position that now is not the time to open an impeachment inquiry. Instead, she invoked her new mantra: “legislate, investigate, litigate.”
In private meetings and strategy sessions, party leaders have advised front-line Democrats to emphasize the policy issues — health care, infrastructure, cleaning up corruption — that they ran and won on. At least two freshmen said the party’s campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, suggested they tone down their language on impeachment, or steer clear of it.