Multiple Democrat presidential candidates insisted Wednesday that comments made by Robert Mueller should be the impetus for impeaching President Donald Trump.
During remarks at the Justice Department, Mueller, who was appointed special counsel in May 2017, said he will not testify before Congress about his report that cleared Trump of claims the president’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia, NBC News reported.
Mueller also said he will make no further public comments about his now-ended investigation.
As to whether Mueller believes Trump — who fiercely opposed the investigation — obstructed justice, Mueller said, “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
That statement was seized upon by several Democrat candidates seeking the party’s nomination in 2020.
“Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear: Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately,” Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey tweeted.
Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear: Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) May 29, 2019
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California joined in, claiming that Mueller’s intent in not charging Trump with obstruction of justice was to have Congress do the work instead.
“Mueller’s statement makes clear what those who have read his report know: It is an impeachment referral, and it’s up to Congress to act. They should,” Warren tweeted.
Mueller’s statement makes clear what those who have read his report know: It is an impeachment referral, and it’s up to Congress to act. They should.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 29, 2019
Harris had a similar comment.
“What Robert Mueller basically did was return an impeachment referral. Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable. We need to start impeachment proceedings. It’s our constitutional obligation,” she tweeted.
What Robert Mueller basically did was return an impeachment referral. Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable.
We need to start impeachment proceedings. It’s our constitutional obligation.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) May 29, 2019
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, echoed Harris and Warren.
“The message really is, ‘Over to you, Congress,'” he told NBC.
“What he reminded everyone was he’s part of a DOJ that says you can’t, which means his option wasn’t charge or don’t charge,” Buttigieg said.
“But procedures do exist for a sitting president to be held accountable, and if the Justice Department can’t charge a sitting president with an actual crime, then it goes over to Congress to decide whether to charge the president with a high crime. This is as close to an impeachment referral as you could get under the circumstances,” he added.
Not everyone was on board. Sen. Bernie Sanders, for instance, was more cautious.
“I think it may be time at least to begin the process through the [House] Judiciary Committee to determine whether or not there are impeachment proceedings,” the Vermont independent told CNN.
“What is truly troubling is that we have seen this President and this Administration engaging in flagrant, open attacks on the rule of law by throwing up roadblocks early in the stages of Congress’ investigation,” a Biden campaign spokesperson told the outlet.
“Not only that, President Trump is now directing an extraordinary internal vendetta against law enforcement and intelligence community investigators who were doing their job,” the statement said.
“Vice President Biden agrees with Speaker Pelosi that no one would relish what would certainly be a divisive impeachment process, but that it may be unavoidable if this Administration continues on its path,” the spokesperson added. “For all these reasons and many more, Vice President Biden will continue to make the case as to why President Trump should not be re-elected. That is the surefire way to get him out of office.”
To date, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has resisted calls for impeachment.
A statement the California Democrat issued Wednesday said Congress “holds sacred its constitutional responsibility to investigate and hold the president accountable for his abuse of power,” but did not discuss moving forward on impeachment, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Pelosi has noted that Trump’s refusal to obey subpoenas from Democrat-controlled House committees creates more impetus from with the party’s ranks to go after Trump and might rise to the level of a crisis requiring impeachment.
“The president’s behavior in terms of his obstruction of justice … yes, these could be impeachable offenses,” Pelosi said Thursday, according to Politico.
“If we can get the facts to the American people through our investigation, it may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment or not. But we’re not at that place.”
An Associated Press report published before Mueller’s remarks said that the question of impeachment pits liberal activists against more centrist Democrats.
“People talk about it and people have opinions about it, but health care is much more salient to them,” Sue Dvorsky, a former head of the Iowa Democratic Party, told the AP. “I just don’t see Democratic activists here all worked up about impeachment. They trust Pelosi.”
Although the Democrat-controlled House could draft articles of impeachment against Trump, the actual trial on those articles would be held by the GOP-controlled Senate.
Several GOP senators have said any trial would be quick and end with a victory for the president.
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