WASHINGTON – The threat of impeachment hangs over the White House, but it also vexes House Democrats wary of taking the next steps against President Donald Trump without broader public support.
Leading Democrats provided a snapshot Sunday of the party wrestling with the impeachment questions posed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings in the Russia investigation. One top leader, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic whip, said the president may well face an impeachment inquiry in the House. Another, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, suggested it’s not likely soon, if at all.
“We’re not there yet,” Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stopped short of pursuing an impeachment inquiry against Trump despite an increasing number of lawmakers, including some 2020 presidential contenders , clamoring to do so. She’s wary of embarking on a politically divisive debate that she worries would all but drown out the House’s policy agenda and campaign promises. Lawmakers heard mixed views during a recess week back home and Pelosi faced those favoring impeachment during the weekend California Democrats’ party meeting.
Instead, six House committees are probing deeply into Trump’s business dealings, his running of the government and whether or not the president obstructed Mueller’s investigation.
“What I have said time and time again is, Mueller has developed the grounds for impeachment. The House has to determine the timing for impeachment. There’s a big difference,” Clyburn said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“We are trying to take our time and do this right,” Clyburn said. “So I don’t see this as being out of whack with what the people’s aspirations are.”
Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, signaled the House may ultimately decline to pursue impeachment.
“I think if it is a close call, close calls go against putting the country through that,” he said.
Schiff still wants Mueller to testify, saying he has a “final duty” to appear before Congress, even though the special counsel indicated in a rare public statement last week he would prefer to simply have the report speak for itself.
“It’s my hope that he will do so, and it’s my hope that he will do so voluntarily,” Schiff said. He did not indicate whether the House would try to compel Mueller’s testimony with a subpoena.
The House is poised to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena for a fully unredacted version of Mueller’s report. Barr has separately been given new authority by Trump to disclose documents and information on the origin of the Russia probe, a top priority of the president and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, said he, too wants Mueller to testify so Republicans can pursue their own line of questioning about the Russia investigation.
“I know this, I got questions for him,” Jordan said on ABC. “Why did you wait almost two years before you told the country there was no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election?”
Trump says the case is closed on the Russia matter, tweeting Sunday, “NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION, NO NOTHING.”
Mueller’s report confirmed that Russia did seek to tilt the 2016 election in favor of Trump, but the special counsel could not establish evidence of a criminal conspiracy with the president’s campaign. Mueller said while Justice Department guidelines indicate a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, the special counsel said he could not clear Trump on the question of whether he obstructed justice.
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