(Bloomberg) -- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday that the Democrats will discuss whether to begin impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump after progressives ratcheted up the pressure on a reluctant party leadership.
“We’re going to have a caucus about this over the next couple weeks to try to figure out what the best course is, not for the party, but what’s the best course for the country,” Schiff said on “Fox News Sunday.”
His statements follow the release of a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which identified at least 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice and left it to Congress to decide how to handle them.
That opening spurred high-profile progressives, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to call for impeachment.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders, battling to preserve party unity so they can move forward on a policy agenda, have repeatedly warned about the political risks of an unsuccessful impeachment attempt, mindful of the impact on the Republican Party when it impeached President Bill Clinton without removing him.
Schiff, who has previously echoed Pelosi’s position, said Sunday that he had not made up his mind about the "very consequential" issue but again warned that “an impeachment would be unsuccessful if the Republican Party continues to place party above country, continues essentially to back the president no matter how unethical or dishonest his conduct may be.”
Trump has kept up a drumbeat of statements on Twitter through the Easter weekend, claiming vindication and expressing his anger, saying that “radical left Democrats do not want to go on to legislate for the good of the people, but only to investigate and waste time.”
Warren, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, tweeted on Friday that the severity of the misconduct by Trump identified by Mueller “demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty” and that “the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”
Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have been trying to tamp down impeachment talk for months, arguing that voters are growing weary of Trump investigations and that most Senate Republicans wouldn’t vote to remove the president from office. Impeachment proceedings also would overshadow Democrats’ legislative agenda on gun control, violence against women and health care that they want to use to shape the 2020 campaign debate.
Pelosi’s office has said Democrats are “focused on getting the full unredacted version of the report and its underlying documents -- as well as hearing from Mueller.” On Monday, Pelosi is scheduled to hold a private conference call with Democratic House members, in which the topic of impeachment could be raised.
In his report, released Thursday, Mueller found evidence of multiple instances of possible obstruction of justice -- including discouraging others from cooperating with the Russia probe and dangling possible pardons -- but declined to make a “traditional” prosecutorial decision, leaving it to Congress.
House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler, who would oversee impeachment proceedings, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” he thought that some of what had been outlined in the report “would be impeachable” if proven and said he would “see where the facts lead” in determining whether he could prove it.
Trump allies on Sunday pushed back on some instances of potential obstruction outlined by Mueller, including the president pressuring then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn to have Mueller fired in the early months of the investigation. McGahn resisted that effort, according to the Mueller report.
Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said on Fox that Trump could have dismissed Mueller without constituting interference so long as Trump expected the probe would continue. Giuliani also said Trump would have had “very good reasons to fire Mueller,” alleging conflicts of interest among his staff, and criticized McGahn’s supposedly varying accounts of the episode.
“I didn’t say McGahn was lying,” Giuliani said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think the testimony is woefully confusing and cannot be relied on.”
A lawyer for McGahn, William Burck, stood by his client’s account in a statement Saturday.
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway on ABC’s “This Week” dodged when asked if she believed McGahn, saying only that the president “was frustrated about the investigation from the very beginning and knew it was ill-conceived.”
--With assistance from Hailey Waller.
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