(Bloomberg) -- Senator Bernie Sanders, the early front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, said he wants Congress to thoroughly investigate President Donald Trump but argued that Democrats risk losing the initiative on issues important to voters if they get into a protracted fight over impeaching him.
Sanders’ position puts him at odds with two of his rivals in the nomination race, Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, as well some members of the party’s progressive wing.
Speaking at a CNN town hall event in New Hampshire, the Vermont senator said the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller shows that Trump is “the most dangerous president in the modern history of our country,’’ but added that the most important goal is making sure he’s not re-elected.
He added that if going into the months leading to the 2020 elections “all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump — Trump, Trump, Trump and Mueller, Mueller, Mueller” then they aren’t talking about health care, raising the minimum wage, gay rights and other issues.
“What I worry about is that works to Trump’s advantage,” he said.
In her own town hall event immediately preceding Sanders, Warren chastised fellow Democrats who are wary of trying to impeach Trump even though Republicans who control the Senate would likely foil such efforts.
“There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution,” Warren said. She added that every member of the House or Senate should go on record with their position on whether Trump’s actions are an impeachable offense, and “they should have to take that vote and live with it for the rest of their lives.”
Harris, who also was among the five presidential candidates taking part in the town hall sessions Monday night, said Mueller’s report contained “good evidence” pointing to Trump obstructing justice.
“I believe Congress should take the steps toward impeachment,” Harris said. At the same time, she warned, Democrats have to be “realistic” about the fact that the effort probably won’t succeed with Republicans in control of the Senate. “But that doesn’t mean the process shouldn’t take hold.”
Democrats are divided over whether to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump after Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was released publicly late last week. That is evident in Congress and among the Democrats who want to replace Trump.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, another of the Democratic presidential candidates, deflected a question about whether the impeachment process should begin.
“I believe very strongly President Trump should be held accountable,’’ she said. “The impeachment proceedings are up to the house, they’re going to have to make that decision.’’
House Democratic leaders held a conference call with their rank and file earlier Monday to talk about Mueller’s report and their next steps. House leaders cautioned against rushing into impeachment proceedings without congressional probes that could help build the public case against Trump, according to lawmakers on the call.
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