- Four days after the special counsel Robert Mueller made his first public statement on his findings in the Russia investigation, Democrats are as divided as ever about whether to immediately impeach President Donald Trump.
- But there is growing consensus that impeachment, at some point down the road, may be inevitable.
- Congressional Democrats like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and House Majority Whip James Clyburn were grilled on their stance on impeachment during the Sunday political talk shows.
- They struck different tones on whether impeachment is currently warranted, but they all agreed that if it doesn’t happen now, it’s a likely possibility in the near future.
- Trump has said he wants Democrats to impeach him because he believes it will backfire, politically, on them. His likely acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate would also allow the president and his allies to reignite their misleading claim that he has been “totally and completely exonerated” of wrongdoing.
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It’s been four days since the former special counsel Robert Mueller made his first public statement on his report in the Russia probe, but Democrats are as divided as ever on whether they should launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
Mueller’s final report did not recommend criminal charges against Trump or anyone associated with his campaign for conspiring with the Russian government during the 2016 election. Mueller also declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on whether Trump obstructed justice, citing Department of Justice (DOJ) guidelines that say a sitting president cannot be indicted.
But the former special counsel laid out an extensive roadmap of evidence against Trump in the obstruction case and noted that the constitutional remedy for accusing a sitting president of wrongdoing falls to Congress, and not to the criminal justice system. Many viewed the statement as a call for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.
But senior Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are pumping the brakes on impeachment amid concerns that it could backfire on Democrats ahead of the 2020 election, especially because the Republican-led Senate is unlikely to oust Trump from office.
Still, there’s broadening consensus among strategists and current congressional Democrats that impeachment may be inevitable.
During Sunday’s “State of the Union” on CNN, host Jake Tapper asked House Majority Whip James Clyburn about the possibility.
“What Nancy Pelosi is trying to do, and the rest of us in the House of Representatives, is to develop a process by which we can efficiently move on this issue, so that when we get to a vote, it would be something that [Pelosi] calls ‘ironclad,'” Clyburn said. “I call effective. And that is why we’re trying to take our time and do this right.”
“It sounds like you think that the President will be impeached, or at least proceedings will begin in the House at some point, but just not right now?” Tapper asked.
“Yes, that’s exactly what I feel,” Clyburn replied.
Meanwhile, New Jersey senator and 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker was asked about his response to Mueller’s statement, in which he called on Congress to “begin impeachment proceedings immediately.”
Tapper pointed out that Mueller’s statement did not reveal new information that wasn’t already in his report and asked Booker what led to his change of heart on impeachment.
“It was a few weeks of seeing a president who wants to undermine … constitutional intent and say that he’s above the law,” Booker said, adding that Mueller’s report clearly indicated that Trump engaged in potential obstruction of justice and that it was up to Congress to investigate further.
“This president is not above the law,” Booker said. “He should not be able to stop the checks and balances on the executive. And I feel like we have a moral obligation now to investigate this president. Impeachment proceedings will give us more legal leverage to get the information Congress needs to get to the bottom of what his administration has done.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff agreed that House Democrats need to move full steam ahead on investigating Trump, but he said launching impeachment proceedings – the most powerful political tool at Congress’ disposal – is not the way to do it just yet.
George Stephanopoulos, the host of ABC News’ “This Week,” asked Schiff about Pelosi’s recent speech at the California Democratic. As she outlined Mueller’s findings on obstruction, Pelosi was nearly drowned out by cries of “Impeach!”
“You’ve been supporting the speaker – she holds the line against impeachment – but the pressure is building,” Stephanopoulos said. “Can you hold the line?”
“I think we’re going to do what’s right for the country,” Schiff said. “And at this point, the speaker has not reached the conclusion – and I haven’t either – that it’s best for the country to put us through an impeachment proceeding that we know is destined for failure in the Senate.”
Schiff conceded that the calculus on that may change, especially if Trump continues stonewalling Congress’ efforts to conduct oversight of his administration, financial dealings, and presidential campaign.
Schiff emphasised that impeachment is “the ultimate form of censure in the House, but we’re not there yet, and if it is a close call, close calls go against putting the country through that.” He added that advancing Democrats’ legislative agenda and pursuing other oversight work “is still the preferred course.”
Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, whose panel would be responsible for formally kicking off impeachment proceedings, said earlier this week that “there certainly is” justification to impeach Trump.
But he added that in order to begin the process, the public must also agree that it’s warranted.
“Impeachment is a political act, and you cannot impeach a president if the American people will not support it,” Nadler said on WNYC. “The American people right now do not support it because they do not know the story. They don’t know the facts. We have to get the facts out. We have to hold a series of hearings, we have to hold the investigations.”