Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, is standing firm against starting a Trump impeachment inquiry.
Updated 05/29/2019 05:53 PM EDT
Special counsel Robert Mueller handed Democrats a new weapon on Wednesday that they hoped would convince Speaker Nancy Pelosi to open an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
But Pelosi remains unmoved, reiterating her view that House Democrats must continue to investigate Trump’s conduct to evaluate whether impeachment is warranted.Story Continued Below
“Where they will lead us, we shall see. Nothing is off the table,” Pelosi said at an event in San Francisco. “But we do want to make such a compelling case, such an ironclad case, that even the Republican Senate — which at the time seems to be not an objective jury — will be convinced of the path that we have to take as a country.”
But cracks in her leadership team continue to lay bare. A week after House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a longtime impeachment advocate, contradicted Pelosi in front of the entire Democratic caucus, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) also endorsed an impeachment inquiry on Wednesday.
Sign up here for POLITICO Huddle
A daily play-by-play of congressional news in your inbox.
By signing up you agree to receive email newsletters or alerts from POLITICO. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Other committee chairs overseeing aspects of the House’s investigations into Trump and his campaign remained united behind Pelosi.
Pelosi’s refusal to embrace what Democratic leaders say remains a minority position in the House Democratic caucus came after Mueller made his only public statement since the start of his two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump obstructed the probe.
The special counsel explicitly said that he could not have charged Trump with obstruction of justice because of the Justice Department’s long-standing policy that prohibits the indictment of a sitting president.
Rather, Mueller said, the Justice Department policy indicates that the Constitution allows for other ways to hold a president accountable. “The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,” he said.
To Democrats who are already eager to impeach Trump, those words — given voice by Mueller for the first time — represented a call to action, one that demands their leaders reverse their long-standing reluctance to launch an impeachment inquiry.
During his 10-minute statement, Mueller all but said Congress’ only recourse to hold Trump accountable is impeachment. And Democrats Wednesday responded with an wide array of options that included impeachment, investigation, censure and demands that Mueller testify, despite his reluctance to do so.
“The next step is for the House Judiciary Committee to open an impeachment inquiry to formally begin consideration of whether or not articles of impeachment should be filed,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), a member of the Judiciary panel and Democratic leadership, who has previously backed impeachment proceedings. “The opening of this inquiry will allow the committee to collect evidence, compel the attendance of witnesses, and decide how to proceed.”
Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who sits on the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, said on Twitter that Mueller’s statement “adds new urgency, putting it front & center before Congress & the American people. He’s asking us to do what he wasn’t allowed to — hold the president accountable.”
Mueller’s statement prompted at least one more House Democrat to call for an impeachment inquiry. New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell said Mueller delivered “nothing short of an alarm bell above the door of our republic.”
But Pelosi has repeatedly said she doesn’t think impeaching Trump is a worthwhile effort, barring dramatic new evidence or the president’s continued efforts to stonewall their investigations. Though she and her allies have sharpened their rhetoric toward Trump — accusing him of a “cover-up” by refusing to cooperate with congressional investigations — Pelosi on Wednesday held firm on her impeachment stance.
“The Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy,” she said in a statement. “The American people must have the truth.”
Though Mueller didn’t explicitly reference impeachment, his allusion to the Justice Department policy of an alternative path for holding a president accountable is an indirect reference to removing the president.
“[A] sitting president is immune from indictment as well as from further criminal process. Only the House of Representatives has the authority to bring charges of criminal misconduct through the constitutionally sanctioned process of impeachment,” the Justice Department policy reads.Across the aisle, Rep. Justin Amash, the Michigan Republican who earlier this month became the only member of his party in Congress to call for Trump’s impeachment, wrote on Twitter: “The ball is in our court, Congress.”
The rest of the Republican Party, however, said Mueller’s statement proved it was time to move on from the investigation.
“Relitigating the 2016 election and reinvestigating the special counsel’s findings will only further divide our country,” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
In a statement Wednesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) reiterated his vow to investigate the obstruction of justice allegations against Trump but stopped short of calling for impeachment proceedings.
“Given that Special Counsel Mueller was unable to pursue criminal charges against the president, it falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump — and we will do so,” Nadler said. “No one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law.”
At a press conference in New York, Nadler said Trump’s conduct is “immoral” and “unlawful,” but he said of impeachment: “All options are on the table and nothing should be ruled out.”
One Democrat on Wednesday revived talk of censuring the president — a rarely used legislative mechanism that essentially condemns the president’s conduct but doesn’t carry any repercussions.
“I believe we should immediately take decisive action to censure him and keep all our options on the table. What President Trump did is wrong and violates the rule of law and our ethical norms,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a Pelosi ally, said in a statement.
Katie Galioto contributed to this story.
This article tagged under:
Missing out on the latest scoops? Sign up for POLITICO Playbook and get the latest news, every morning — in your inbox.