Washington – Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, even with its redactions, provides Congress with a potential road map to President Donald Trump’s impeachment, but Connecticut lawmakers have joined other congressional Democrats wary of pursuing that path.
Even Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a lead critic of the president’s conduct, stopped short of calling for impeachment after Mueller’s 448-page report was released Thursday.
In a press conference in Hartford, Blumenthal said it was premature to discuss whether the House of Representatives should begin impeachment proceedings against the president.
“I really want to review this report in order to see what remedies should be pursued,” he said.
Blumenthal said he wanted the chance to question Mueller at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and wants to see an unredacted copy of Mueller’s report.
Fellow Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., also said more information is needed before Congress takes the next step.
“The Trump administration is deciding what Congress can and cannot see, which is deeply concerning,” Murphy said. “Congress must see a full, unredacted Mueller report, and we must hear Mueller testify before we even discuss how Congress should proceed.”
Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, has been more direct about why Congress is not likely to rush to impeachment.
Himes said Congress has a Constitutional duty to act as a check on the president
But he says the stark political reality is that even if the president were impeached by the Democratically controlled U.S. House, two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote to convict, and that’s unlikely to happen because the chamber is in GOP hands.
“There is absolutely no question in how that ends — and that ends with the Senate not convicting,” Himes said on CNN Thursday. “I don’t think there is a crime that this president could commit that would cause the Republican Party to turn on him.”
Himes also said an impeachment trial in the Senate would last a year or more, derailing important congressional work on infrastructure, health care and other issues.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional Democratic leaders are also aware that an unsuccessful attempt to impeach Trump could hurt them at the polls in 2020, just as the failed Republican attempt to impeach former President Bill Clinton cost that party in the next election.
But there are Democrats, mostly in the party’s progressive wing, who are beating the impeachment drum, especially now that Mueller indicated in his report that Congress could pursue obstruction charges against Trump.
“The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law,” the special counsel’s report said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is among the latest lawmakers to say they will sign an impeachment resolution introduced by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. As of now the resolution has only one co-sponsor, Rep. Al Green, D-Texas.
In a series of tweets, Ocasio-Cortez said that while she understands the “political reality of the Senate” and election considerations, “I cannot see a reason for us to abdicate from our constitutionally mandated responsibility to investigate.”
“Many know I take no pleasure in discussions of impeachment. I didn’t campaign on it, [and] rarely discuss it unprompted,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “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.”
Fellow freshmen Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-4th District, disagrees.
“Regardless of the results of the Mueller report, President Trump and his administration give the American people evidence on a daily basis that we need a change of leadership,” Hayes said in a statement. “However, I believe that change should come through an election rather than impeachment.”
Like other Connecticut lawmakers, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, said it is better to wait and gather more information before rushing towards impeaching the president.
“No one is above the law, and Congress will not shy away from its responsibilities in upholding the rule of law,” DeLauro said.
But she also said Congress has formally requested the full Mueller report and its underlying evidence, as well as public testimony from Attorney General William Barr and Mueller.
“As we await that crucial information, we will not allow the president’s unethical behavior to deter our legislative efforts to lower Americans’ healthcare costs and ensure they have good-paying jobs that they can support themselves and their families on,” DeLauro said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is running for the White House, said late Friday she decided the U.S. House of Representatives should initiate impeachment, after having fully read the Mueller report.
“The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty,” Warren tweeted. ” That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”
While Connecticut Democrats are not eager to press for Trump’s impeachment, that could change if new information is uncovered in a series of congressional investigations or in the 14 criminal cases the Mueller team referred to other offices.
And New York’s attorney general has opened several investigations into Trump’s conduct, including allegations that Trump exaggerated his wealth to obtain loans and whether donors to the president’s 2016 campaign “benefits” after making contributions or whether foreign nationals made illegal donations.
“New facts, obviously, historically, have influenced the congressional temperament,” Himes said, referring to former President Richard Nixon, who initially seemed safe from impeachment after the Watergate scandal, but was forced to resign as new details of his conduct were uncovered and a conviction by the Senate was imminent.
The release of the Mueller report Thursday prompted calls from Connecticut Democrats for an unredacted report.
Leeaders of key congressional committees have been offered by Barr access to one that is not as redacted as the one released Thursday, but on Friday Pelosi and other Democratic congressional leaders rejected that plan, saying “the proposal would only allow twelve Members of Congress to view a less-redacted version of the report in person and would not permit them to discuss it with other Members of Congress who all have top security clearances.”
In their letter to Barr, the lawmakers wrote “while the current proposal is not workable, we are open to discussing a reasonable accommodation with the Department that would protect law enforcement sensitive information while allowing Congress to fulfill its constitutional duties.”
Connecticut Democrats have also demanded that Barr and Mueller appear before Congress to be questioned. The release of the report has given fresh impetus to a series of congressional investigations into the Trump administration.
Himes, for instance, said the report could help him and fellow members of the House Intelligence Committee, who are also investigating the Kremlin’s involvement in U.S. elections, determine if Russia has compromising information on Trump or his aides.