Democrats have an intra-party battle brewing over impeaching Trump after the Mueller report's release

  • Democrats are torn over the politics and consequences associated with impeaching President Donald Trump.
  • After special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation report was made public on Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said it’s “not worthwhile” for Democrats to move forward with impeachment.
  • Lawmakers and strategist on the Democratic left flank slammed Hoyer and argued that Mueller’s report offers substantial material to support impeachment proceedings.
  • While Democratic leadership says it’s “too early” to decide whether to move forward on impeachment, some progressive lawmakers are signing onto a House resolution calling to do just that.
  • The issue will likely continue to roil the party as lawmakers weigh the political implications of attempting to impeaching the president before 2020.
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Democrats are torn over the politics of impeachment – a division on display on Thursday when Democrats delivered contradictory responses on the subject following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report.

Hours after the report was made public on Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on national television that it’s “not worthwhile” for the Democratic Party to try to impeach the president following the release of a redacted version of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation report.

“Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point. Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months, and the American people will make a judgement,” Hoyer told CNN’s Dana Bash.

The comment confused many of Hoyer’s colleagues – who had largely remained quiet on the issue of impeachment on Thursday.

Read more:
Democratic House leader says impeaching Trump isn’t ‘worthwhile’ after the Mueller report

Daily Beast editor Sam Stein reported that several Democratic lawmakers “had no clue why Hoyer went out and said impeachment was off the table.” One aide told Stein that Hoyer was “off message.” Others said that despite having ample time to settle on its messaging, Democratic leadership failed to direct lawmakers on how to respond to the highly-anticipated report.

Hoyer changed his message a few hours later to match that of fellow Democratic leaders.

“Congress must have the full report & all underlying evidence in order to determine what actions may be necessary to ensure that the Congress & the American people have all the info they need to know the truth & all options ought to remain on the table to achieve that objective,” Hoyer tweeted.

‘We can walk and chew gum’

On Thursday evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Attorney General William Barr of “deliberately distort[ing] significant portions” of the report, and called for Mueller to testify before Congress, and for the evidence underlying the report to be turned over to Congress.

“It is imperative that the rest of the report and the underlying documents be made available to Congress and that Special Counsel Mueller testify before both chambers as soon as possible,” Schumer and Pelosi concluded.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler went further on Friday morning when he said that before Congress can determine whether it should move forward with impeachment proceedings, both Congress and the public need to see “all the evidence” underlying the special counsel investigation.

When asked about impeachment, Nadler told CNN’s Dana Bash, “It’s way too early to speculate about that.”

Meanwhile, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff said on Thursday that impeachment is a lost cause, “barring a bipartisan consensus,” and added, “you don’t bring a case if you don’t think you’re going to be successful just to try the case.”

Read more:
Mueller explicitly says he can’t clear Trump of obstruction of justice

Democratic leadership – and the mainstream of the party – have for months delivered the same line when faced with the impeachment question: “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.” They hold that members of Congress can fulfil its oversight responsibilities, including investigating the president, while simultaneously focusing their messaging on the issues most voters prioritise: healthcare and the economy.

Some Democrats stuck to that message following the Mueller report’s publication.

“House Democrats are more than capable of chewing gum and walking at the same time,” Ian Russell, a Democratic congressional strategist, told INSIDER on Friday morning. “The report certainly provided many leads for investigation and oversight, and they should follow those before making a firm determination on impeachment proceedings.”

But Pelosi said in March that she’s “not for impeachment,” likely considering the potentially tough spot it could put swing district members in.

“Unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan,” she told The Washington Post, “I don’t think we should go down that path.”

Alexandria ocasio cortez ayanna pressley rashida tlaibChip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesRep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib listen as Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, testifies before the House Oversight Committee

Progressives plow ahead

Lawmakers and strategists on the Democratic Party’s left flank consider Mueller’s report a mandate to begin an impeachment investigation.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who made headlines with her January call to “impeach the motherf–ker,” submitted an impeachment resolution in late March asking the House Judiciary Committee to begin investigating whether Trump committed impeachable offenses. It was co-signed by just one other Democrat, Rep. Al Green of Texas.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York signed onto Tlaib’s resolution on Thursday evening. She argued that Congress has a constitutional obligation to investigate possible obstruction of justice by the president, while acknowledging that the Senate likely won’t vote to impeach Trump.

“While I understand the political reality of the Senate + election considerations, upon reading this DoJ report, which explicitly names Congress in determining obstruction, I cannot see a reason for us to abdicate from our constitutionally mandated responsibility to investigate,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

She continued, “Many know I take no pleasure in discussions of impeachment. I didn’t campaign on it, & rarely discuss it unprompted. We all prefer working on our priorities: pushing Medicare for All, tackling student loans, & a Green New Deal. But the report squarely puts this on our doorstep.”

Read more:
Freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib bucks Pelosi, urges Democrats not to take Trump impeachment off the table even after Mueller findings

Tlaib said that while her resolution has garnered little public support from lawmakers, she’s been encouraged to move forward behind closed doors.

“Not one single person told me not to do this – and I think that speaks volumes, more than whether or not they signed on,” she told reporters in late March.

Some prominent former Democratic political aides – some of whom worked for Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama – are singing the same tune.

“The nation’s former top cop just revealed that the president was part of a conspiracy with a foreign enemy to get elected and has repeatedly abused his power and committed obstruction since he got elected,” Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist who served as a spokesman for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, told INSIDER. “Everything is on the table going forward.”

“I don’t know how you can read this report and not conclude that an impeachment inquiry is warranted,” former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau wrote in a viral tweet on Thursday.

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