Washington (AFP) - A leading Democratic lawmaker said Sunday that his party would likely decide within a few weeks whether a move to impeach President Donald Trump would be "the best course for the country."
Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said that since Republicans control the Senate -- and would likely block an effort to oust Trump -- Democrats face a quandary after special counsel Robert Mueller found no coordination between Russia and the Trump election campaign but cited 10 episodes of potential obstruction involving Trump.
"We will have to decide, do we nonetheless go through an impeachment -- because to do otherwise would signal that somehow this president's conduct is okay, that future presidents can engage in this kind of corruption without consequence -- or do we decide that we are better off doing oversight ... rather than a formal impeachment?"
"That's going to be a very consequential decision" and one that would be made "over the next couple weeks," Schiff said on "Fox News Sunday."
The mixed message from the 448-page Mueller report has left Democrats weighing difficult options.
Some say impeachment -- which requires a simple-majority vote in the Democratic-controlled House, but then a two-thirds vote in the Republican Senate -- would give Trump a chance to rally his base supporters behind claims he has been vindicated and is now being unfairly harassed.
They point to the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton, which fell short in the Senate but left that Democratic president more popular than ever.
Other Democrats say that Mueller provided sufficient evidence of Trump's obstructive intent that it would be a failure of Democrats' will and civic duty not to seek impeachment.
But Representative Jerry Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, equivocated when asked on NBC about impeachment. "We may get to that, we may not," he said, adding that lawmakers needed first to "go through all the evidence."
So far, only two of the 18 declared Democratic presidential candidates -- Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Obama cabinet member Julian Castro -- have called for impeachment.
"To ignore a President's repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country," Warren said in a tweet Friday.
But House speaker Nancy Pelosi has been wary of taking such an explosive step, urging fellow Democrats to wait until they are able to see a full and unredacted version of the Mueller report.