Democrats have seized on the fact the Mueller report did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice charges
Washington (AFP) - A triumphant President Donald Trump on Thursday proclaimed "Game Over" for his critics following the long awaited publication of the Mueller report, which cleared him of colluding with Russia.
Not so fast, replied prominent Democrats -- as they vowed to continue investigating the Republican president over what they said was "dishonest" and "immoral" conduct revealed by the two-year-long Russia probe.
"FOR THE HATERS AND RADICAL LEFT DEMOCRATS -- GAME OVER," said the billionaire former showman in a message on Twitter that, not for the first time, imitated the iconography of acclaimed fantasy series "Game of Thrones."
After a 22-month probe on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded Trump's team did not conspire with Moscow.
But while Trump has declared victory and cast himself as fully exonerated -- the report made clear investigators did not share that conclusion when it comes to the charge of obstruction of justice. It is a finding Democrats have seized on.
"Donald Trump has spent his entire presidency engaged in a nonstop campaign of obstruction, intimidation, and abuse of power," said Democratic party chairman Tom Perez. "No one is above the law."
With their newly acquired majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats now have the power to launch investigations, summon witnesses and subpoena documents.
- Congressional investigations -
The president's actions are "deeply alarming" and "unquestionably dishonest, unethical, immoral and unpatriotic," said Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee.
"Even in its incomplete form, the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice" added chair of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler.
Both have reached the same conclusion: "The responsibility now falls to Congress to hold the President accountable for his actions."
The same holds true for Senator Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president.
"It is clear that Donald Trump wanted nothing more than to shut down the Mueller investigation," he said. "While we have more detail from today's report than before, Congress must continue its investigation into Trump's conduct and any foreign attempts to influence our election."
As part of these investigations, Democrats have called on Mueller to testify before the House of Representatives by May 23. The Trump administration has announced it would not oppose that.
Attorney General Bill Barr, who has come under heavy fire by Democrats for how he managed the publication of the report, will face Congress on May 2.
- Impeachment off the table? -
After the report's release, some lawmakers from the party's left wing have once again waved the threat of impeachment.
But the Democratic party's leaders have once again clearly dismissed this option.
Even if the House of Representatives were to embark on such a path, it would likely be doomed to fail in the Republican-controlled Senate where a two-thirds majority is required to remove a sitting president.
Former Democratic president Bill Clinton was acquitted from his own impeachment proceedings in this fashion in 1999.
Eighteen months out from presidential and congressional elections, the opposition must be careful in how it navigates the choppy waters of the Russia investigation. The probe has spanned more than half of Trump's presidency without affecting his base.
The president enjoys a 90 percent approval rating among Republicans. On the other side of the aisle, some 20 Democrats are vying for their party's nomination.
These candidates exercised caution in reacting to the report, posting one or two tweets before pivoting to the core issues of their campaigns and the subjects that are priorities for voters: health insurance, rising inequality, education and student debt.
It was a formula which paid dividends in November 2018 midterms when they retook the House after eight years of Republican rule.
Reacting on Thursday, Pete Buttigieg, a once little-known candidate whose campaign has surged in the early part of the Democratic race, said the report was "disturbing," though its findings were "not completely surprising."
"Today again demonstrates why we need to change the channel in 2020," he concluded.