Mr. Clinton’s impeachment coincided with the collapse of the party’s leadership team in the House after Republicans’ unexpected losses in the midterm congressional elections. Newt Gingrich of Georgia was forced to resign as speaker, and his would-be replacement, Robert L. Livingston of Louisiana, abruptly followed suit weeks later when, in the middle of the final debate over whether to impeach Mr. Clinton for sexual transgressions, he confessed in a speech on the House floor to his own extramarital affair.
By the time J. Dennis Hastert, a mild-mannered Republican, was chosen as speaker in early 1999, he was more interested in installing a new leadership team and policy agenda that could broaden the party’s appeal than seeing through an impeachment case that Republicans saw as politically toxic.
“He really wanted to run away from impeachment because he thought it was a loser politically, and he wanted to bring the country back together,” said John Feehery, who was a top aide to Mr. Hastert. “Clinton was not going to be kicked out of office, and our view was we had to restore the brand of the party from launching a partisan impeachment to get some stuff done.”
While her initial instincts might have been similar, once Ms. Pelosi embraced impeachment, she remained intimately involved.
As she has traveled this week, Ms. Pelosi has stayed up late in her hotel room, watching the impeachment trial on television as her lieutenants and Mr. Trump’s lawyers feuded over witnesses and trial rules. She is in frequent contact with Mr. Schumer, with whom she has orchestrated an effort to pressure Republicans into calling new witnesses and documents.
Ashley Etienne, Ms. Pelosi’s communications director and a veteran of the Obama administration, is working with a top aide to Mr. Schiff, Patrick Boland, to oversee an elaborate news media strategy around the impeachment effort. Before the trial formally got underway, Ms. Pelosi lent the managers and their staff her spacious Capitol office suite, where they spent the weekend holed away for marathon prep sessions with her aides.