Mueller report gives Democrats political ammunition but they are split on how to use it
Published on: April 19, 2019 03:40 (EAT)
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his inquiry into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election provided extensive details on President Donald Trump’s efforts to thwart the probe, giving Democrats plenty of political ammunition against the Republican but no consensus on how to use it. Mueller’s 448-page report, the product of a 22-month investigation, built a broad case that Trump had committed obstruction of justice but stopped short of concluding he had committed a crime, although it did not exonerate him. Mueller noted Congress has the power to address whether Trump violated the law, and Democrats quickly vowed to steam ahead with congressional investigations of the president. But party leaders played down talk of impeachment just 18 months before the 2020 presidential election, even as some prominent members of the party’s progressive wing, most notably U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, promised to push the idea. “Many know I take no pleasure in discussions of impeachment. I didn’t campaign on it, & rarely discuss it unprompted,” she said on Twitter. “But the report squarely puts this on our doorstep.” Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said on Twitter: “There seems to be some confusion … This isn’t a matter of legal interpretation; it’s reading comprehension. The report doesn’t say Congress should investigate obstruction now. It says Congress can make laws about obstruction under Article I powers.” Many of the report’s findings are certain to be repeated on the campaign trail as Democrats make their case against Trump’s re-election, although Democratic presidential candidates were cautious in responding on Thursday. Mueller’s report noted “numerous links” between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign and said the president’s team “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” referring to hacked Democratic emails. But Mueller, a former FBI director, concluded there was not enough evidence to establish that Trump’s campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow. After the report’s release, Trump appeared to be in a celebratory mood. Trump, having long described Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt,” on Thursday night told a crowd of well wishers in Florida where he will spend the weekend: “Game over folks, now it’s back to work.” The report, with some portions blacked out to protect sensitive information, revealed details of how Trump tried to force Mueller’s ouster, directed members of his administration to publicly vouch for his innocence and dangled a pardon to a former aide to try to prevent him from cooperating with the special counsel. “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” the report stated. The report said that when former Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump in May 2017 that the Justice Department was appointing a special counsel to look into allegations that his campaign colluded with Russia, Trump slumped back in his chair and said, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.” Attorney General William Barr told a news conference Mueller had detailed “10 episodes involving the president and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense.” Barr concluded last month after receiving a confidential copy of Mueller’s report that Trump had not actually committed a crime.