Senior Democrat Steny Hoyer: Impeachment of Donald Trump 'not worthwhile' at this point

Maureen Groppe and Eliza Collins and Christal Hayes
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called impeachment proceedings against President Trump "not worthwhile," despite details in the special counsel report that Democrats called damning.

WASHINGTON – Don't expect the Democrat-led House to start impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump any time soon, despite fresh details about Trump's actions included in the long-awaited report by special counsel Robert Mueller. 

The No. 2 House Democrat rejected trying to remove the president after the report's release Thursday.

“Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told CNN. "Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgment."

Likewise, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which would lead any impeachment inquiry, told reporters that it's "too early to talk about that."

"That’s one possibility. There are others," said Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. "We obviously have to get to the bottom of what happened and take whatever actions seem necessary at that time."

Without taking questions from reporters about the Mueller report, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk to board Marine One for a short trip to Joint Base Andrews then on to his estate in Palm Beach, Fla., at the White House in Washington on Thursday, April 18, 2019.

New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the chair of the Democratic Caucus and a member of the Judiciary Committee, told USA TODAY impeachment would be "premature" as Congress was still "in information gathering mode." 

"As Speaker Pelosi has indicated in order to proceed with the possibility of impeachment, the case should be compelling, the evidence should be overwhelming and the public sentiment surrounding impeachment should be bipartisan in nature," Jeffries said. "Those conditions still do not exist." 

But Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice of House progressives, said there's no reason for Congress to abdicate its "constitutionally mandated responsibility to investigate."

"Many know I take no pleasure in discussions of impeachment. I didn’t campaign on it, & rarely discuss it unprompted," she tweeted. "But the report squarely puts this on our doorstep."

In a separate tweet, she said she planned to sign onto a resolution on impeachment pushed by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved to shut down any talk of impeachment last month by telling The Washington Post that Trump was "just not worth it."

She elaborated in a March interview with USA TODAY that impeachment is a waste of time "unless the evidence is so conclusive that the Republicans will understand."

"Otherwise, it's a gift to the president. We take our eye off the ball," she said.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a congressional aide when the House began impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon and a member of Congress when President Bill Clinton was impeached, said impeachment is only successful if the public supports it. 

"In the Nixon case there was substantial obstruction and misconduct. And there was also a strong sense in the country that action needed to be taken," said Lofgren, a member of the Judiciary Committee. "I don’t think we’re at that point yet, and we may never be."

Democrats are well aware of the risks of moving forward when impeachment doesn't have enough public support. They watched what happened to Republicans when Clinton was impeached. Clinton's popularity rose and Republicans lost seats during the next election. 

But not all Democrats were ready to dismiss impeachment, entirely. 

California Rep. Eric Swalwell, a member of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees who is also running for president, was less quick to rule out impeachment.

“Regardless of what happens, if Donald Trump is still around in November 2020, we should remove him at the ballot box, but I don’t think we should take impeachment off the table,” he told CNN.

Noting a list of concerns revolved around Trump’s conduct, which were part of Mueller’s 448-page report, Swalwell added that Trump’s actions do “not meet the standard of conduct that we want from a president of the United States.”

Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, who sits on the intelligence committee, said the report puts Pelosi in a "tough position because the Constitution demands that Congress examine that behavior detailed in the Mueller report."

"But you could burn an awful lot of time, energy and resources where the conclusion in the Senate is almost forgone,” he told USA TODAY.

Democrats did pledge Thursday to thoroughly review Mueller's report, including asking for underlying evidence and calling Mueller to testify. 

"I think from the structure of the report…it was probably written with the intent of providing Congress a roadmap," Nadler said. "We have to go follow the evidence where it will lead."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Senior Democrat Steny Hoyer: Impeachment of Donald Trump 'not worthwhile' at this point