WASHINGTON - Special counsel Robert Mueller’s refusal Wednesday to clear U.S. President Donald Trump of allegations that he obstructed justice by trying to thwart the Russia investigation appeared to embolden opposition Democrats in calls for more investigations of Trump and possibly his impeachment.
“We will take action to hold the president accountable,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, the panel where impeachment hearings would originate. “With respect to impeachment, all options are on the table.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has balked at starting impeachment hearings, instead favoring more congressional investigations of Trump, his administration and efforts to curb Mueller’s 22-month probe to build a case that’s “very compelling to the American people.”
But after Mueller said, “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Pelosi said in a statement that Congress “holds sacred its constitutional responsibility to investigate and hold the president accountable for his abuse of power.”
Several Democratic presidential contenders seeking to defeat Trump in the November 2020 election called for his impeachment. About three dozen Democratic House members and a single Republican congressman have called for Trump’s impeachment, although even if the House were to vote in favor of impeachment, it is highly unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate would remove Trump from office.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a vocal Trump critic seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said, “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.”
Sen. Kamala Harris of California said it “was a fair inference” from Mueller’s statement that Trump would have been indicted were it not for a long-standing Department of Justice policy that sitting U.S. presidents cannot be charged with criminal offenses. She said Congress needs to act on what “is essentially indictable evidence” against Trump.
“We need to start impeachment proceedings. It’s our constitutional obligation,” Harris said.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said, “Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear: Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.”
Rep. Seth Moulton, another Democratic presidential candidate, said, “Mueller did his job. Now it’s time to do ours. Impeachment hearings should begin tomorrow.”
But former Vice President Joe Biden, ahead of two dozen other Democrats in national surveys, took a more measured stance, saying, “Congress must do everything in its power to hold this administration to account. That is what Congress is doing and should do: continue to investigate.”
Across the political aisle in Washington, Congressman Justin Amash, the lone Republican calling for Trump’s impeachment, said, “The ball is in our court, Congress.”
Trump, however, dismissed Mueller’s statement, saying on Twitter, “Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.”
Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2019
Later, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, “The report was clear — there was no collusion, no conspiracy — and the Department of Justice confirmed there was no obstruction. ... After two years, the special counsel is moving on with his life, and everyone else should do the same.”
Trump drew support from some of his staunchest allies in Congress.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “Today’s statement by Mr. Mueller reinforces the findings of his report. And as for me, the case is over. Mr. Mueller has decided to move on and let the report speak for itself. Congress should follow his lead.”
The lead Republican on Nadler’s committee, Congressman Doug Collins, said, “It is time to move on from the investigation and start focusing on real solutions for the American people.”