Trump and impeachment: where Democrats stand after Mueller

Long before a redacted version of the Mueller report was released this week, the winds of impeachment were swirling around Donald Trump’s presidency.

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Nonetheless, the findings in the 448-page report, which include 11 instances in which Trump or his campaign engaged in potential obstruction of justice, have increased pressure on prominent Democrats to take a stand on the issue.

Articles of impeachment would have to pass the Democratic-controlled House. But to remove the president from office, two-thirds of the Republican-controlled Senate would need to vote in favor.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has repeatedly resisted calls for impeachment. She and other Democrats fear the process, which would be overwhelmingly likely to fail in the Senate, would become a political distraction and that the party should instead bet on the ballot box in 2020 as the way to get Trump out of the White House.

Nonetheless, in the wake of the Mueller report, prominent Democrats including presidential contenders, committee chairs and rank-and-file lawmakers found themselves having to position themselves as for impeachment, against it … or somewhere in between.

For impeachment

Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator was the first 2020 presidential candidate to call for impeachment, writing that not holding such proceedings “would suggest that both the current and future presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways”.

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“The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty,” she tweeted. “That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the president of the United States.”

Julián Castro: The former housing secretary and hopeful for the Democratic nomination said he would support Congress opening impeachment proceedings, telling CNN “it would be perfectly reasonable for Congress” to do so.

Tom Steyer: The billionaire explored running for president until January, with impeachment as a key part of his platform. Despite deciding not to run, he has continued to pursue impeachment. In response to Warren’s support, he said she was “one of the people in Washington who has the moral courage to do what’s right”.

We’re going to impeach the motherfucker

Rashida Tlaib

Rashida Tlaib: A month before the redacted Mueller report was released, the Michigan representative introduced an impeachment resolution. “We all swore to protect our nation, and that begins with making sure that no one, including the president of the United States, is acting above the law,” Tlaib wrote in a letter to colleagues. She also called for Trump’s impeachment on her first day in office in January, in a Detroit Free Press opinion piece and at a swearing-in event, where she commented: “We’re going to impeach the motherfucker.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: On Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez said she would sign-on to Tlaib’s resolution, in the wake of the Mueller report. “Many know I take no pleasure in discussions of impeachment. I didn’t campaign on it, and rarely discuss it unprompted,” the New York representative and progressive star tweeted. “We all prefer working on our priorities: pushing Medicare for All, tackling student loans, and a Green New Deal. But the report squarely puts this on our doorstep.”

Maxine Waters: The Californian who chairs the House finance committee – and who has been attacked by Trump – backed impeachment on Thursday. “Congress’s failure to impeach is complacency in the face of the erosion of our democracy and constitutional norms,” she said. “Congress’s failure to impeach would set a dangerous precedent and imperil the nation as it would vest too much power in the executive branch and embolden future officeholders to further debase the US presidency, if that’s even possible.”

Al Green: The Texas representative has pushed for impeachment since Trump fired the FBI director James Comey in May 2017, forcing two unsuccessful votes on the articles of impeachment. He continues to push on. “I call for the impeachment of the president of the United States of America,” Green said in a press conference streamed on Facebook. “This rests solely now on the shoulders of the Congress of the United States of America.”

Against impeachment

Nancy Pelosi speaks on Capitol Hill.
Nancy Pelosi speaks on Capitol Hill.

Nancy Pelosi speaks on Capitol Hill.Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Nancy Pelosi: The speaker of the House has a delicate path to tread and has not encouraged voters to believe she will initiate impeachment proceedings, instead pointing to fierce oversight of the White House by Democratic-led committees.

“Let me assure you that whatever the issue and challenge we face, the Congress of the United States will honor its oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States to protect our democracy,” she told reporters this week. “We believe that the first article – Article I, the legislative branch – has the responsibility of oversight of our democracy, and we will exercise that.”

The avenue is not impeachment. The avenue is further disclosure to the American people

Hakeem Jeffries

Hakeem Jeffries: The New York representative who chairs the House Democratic caucus said voters were much more interested in issues beyond impeachment. “The avenue is not impeachment,” he said this week. “The avenue is further disclosure to the American people.”

Angus King: The independent senator from Maine, who caucuses with Democrats, said the decision to keep Trump as president – or not – should be taken by voters. “In my view, there’s an even better political process coming right down the road on almost the same time frame and that’s the elections of 2020,” King told CNN on Friday. “For Congress to go through an impeachment process would be, it would take probably 18 months, which would lead right up to the election. And it would be divisive.”

Related: What's missing? The clues to Barr's 1,000 Mueller report redactions

Somewhere in between

Pete Buttigieg: The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, another 2020 hopeful who has surged in the polls, said there was “evidence that this president deserves to be impeached”. But he also said it was up to Congress to decide whether to proceed, prompting debate over his true meaning.

The idea is to find out exactly what went on, who did what

Jerrold Nadler

Jerrold Nadler: The chairman of the House judiciary committee said his panel would hold “major hearings” with prominent people featured in the Mueller report. The New York representative, who has subpoenaed the unredacted report, has discussed impeachment repeatedly as it would originate with his committee. This week he remained noncommittal.

“The idea is not whether to debate articles of impeachment,” Nadler said. “The idea is to find out exactly what went on, who did what, what institutional safeguards were gotten around and how they were gotten around, and then decide what to do about it.”

Amy Klobuchar: The Minnesota senator, running for the Democratic nomination, falls very much on the “let’s investigate more” side of things. She told reporters on Friday she wants to see Mueller testify before the Senate judiciary committee, of which she is a member. “I think you’ve seen all the senators are very cautious about talking about this because we would be the jury if there was any kind of an action brought over from the House,” she said.

Kamala Harris says ‘there is definitely a conversation to be had’ about impeachment.
Kamala Harris says ‘there is definitely a conversation to be had’ about impeachment.

Kamala Harris says ‘there is definitely a conversation to be had’ about impeachment.Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

Kamala Harris: “I think that there is definitely a conversation to be had on that subject,” the California senator and presidential hopeful told MSNBC on Thursday, “but first I want to hear from Bob Mueller and really understand what exactly is the evidence that supports the summary that we have been given today.”

Cory Booker: Speaking in Nevada on Friday, the New Jersey senator, who is also a member of the judiciary committee and a 2020 hopeful, said it was too soon to discuss impeachment because Congress has not seen the unredacted report and has not had a chance to interview Mueller. “There’s a lot more investigation that should go on before Congress comes to any conclusions like that,” he said.

Bernie Sanders: At a South Carolina campaign stop on Friday, the Vermont senator ignored questions from reporters about impeachment. Instead he tweeted: “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.”

Beto O’Rourke: The 2020 contender and former Texas representative said he believed voters cared more about policy discussions than impeachment, telling reporters on Thursday: “I don’t know that impeachment and those proceedings in the House and potential trial in the Senate is going to answer those questions for people.”

Related: The full text of Robert Mueller's report on Trump and Russia

Elijah Cummings: The House oversight committee chairman told MSNBC on Friday the Mueller report revealed actions that were “at least 100 times worse” than those that led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998. “We’ve got to go against this, we’ve got to expose it. A lot of people keep asking about the question of impeachment,” Cummings said. “But right now, let’s make sure we understand what Mueller was doing, understand what Barr was doing, and see the report in an unredacted form, and all of the underlying documents.”

Eric Swalwell: The California representative, also running for president, told MSNBC on Friday impeachment was “a conversation we have to have as far as holding this president accountable” but stopped short of saying whether he supported impeachment proceedings. “I’m for bringing Bob Mueller in and see what the evidence is,” he said.

Steny Hoyer: The House majority leader, from Maryland, said the Mueller report was “a damning recitation of lies, misinformation, and malfeasance” that clearly sets a basis for “probable cause that crimes were, in fact, committed”. But he did not mention impeachment.