Dems see Mueller firing as a red line on impeachment

Dems see Mueller firing as a red line on impeachment
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Democrats considered potential presidential candidates say if President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE fires special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE it would be grounds for impeachment. 

The would-be candidates, who have been careful in their comments about the politically thorny issue, have now begun to qualify on what grounds they would push for impeachment. 

And they are signaling that terminating Mueller is a red line. 

At a town hall in Sacramento, Calif., last week, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties Conservative commentator rips Shapiro over criticism of people with multiple jobs MORE (Calif.) said firing the special counsel would be an impeachable offense. 

“I can't see how it wouldn't be,” she told constituents. 

Harris, 53, repeated the sentiment again in Washington this week, saying firing Mueller would “certainly yield impeachment hearings.”

Across the country, when Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Manufacturing shrinks, raising questions for Trump Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties MORE was asked at a town hall meeting last week in her home state of Massachusetts last week about impeaching Trump , she also turned to Mueller. 

“Right now, I believe it is absolutely critical that the special counsel, Mueller, be allowed to complete his investigation in full with no interference from anyone,” Warren, 68, said. 

On Friday, Warren took to Twitter to urge Democrats in the Senate to pass a bipartisan bill “to ensure that Mueller can complete a full, independent investigation.” 

“Let’s send a loud, clear message that no one is above the law — not even the President of the United States,” she wrote.

An aide to Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandSteve King to Gillibrand: Odds of me resigning same as yours of winning presidential nomination The Hill's Morning Report — Recession fears climb and markets dive — now what? King incites furor with abortion, rape and incest remarks MORE (D-N.Y.) also drew the line at Mueller’s firing. 

Gillibrand, 51, believes that Mueller “needs to be allowed to do his job without interference from the White House,” the aide said, adding that she backs the bipartisan legislation meant to offer some protection for the special counsel.

“When the investigation is complete, Congress will need to do its job based on the facts,” the aide said. 

Offices to a few possible Democratic contenders in 2020, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersVolatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties GOP memo deflects some gun questions to 'violence from the left' British Bookmaker: Warren has replaced Biden as Democratic primary favorite MORE (I-Vt.), 76; Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharPoll: Nearly 4 in 5 say they will consider candidates' stances on cybersecurity The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment MORE (D-Minn.), 57; and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Steve King to Gillibrand: Odds of me resigning same as yours of winning presidential nomination We need a climate plan for agriculture MORE (D-N.J.), 48, did not respond to a request for comment. 

In December Sanders, who ran as a Democrat during the 2016 presidential election, urged Democrats not to “jump the gun” when it comes to impeachment. Sanders said Democrats should wait for the Mueller investigation to be completed before they decide how to move forward on impeachment. 

“I think there is a process that has to be followed,” Sanders said on NBC’s "Meet the Press." “I think Mr. Mueller is doing a very good job on this investigation. If Mueller brings forth the clear evidence that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, I think you have grounds for impeachment.”

An aide to Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces White House eyes September action plan for gun proposals Trump phoned Democratic senator to talk gun control MORE (D-Conn.), 44, said he had not weighed in on the matter.

The remarks from Harris, Warren and Gillibrand could put pressure on Democratic leaders in Congress on the issue of impeachment. 

Democratic leaders have been careful to not talk up the issue, worrying it could backfire ahead of midterm elections in which the party is growing more and more confident that it could win the House majority.

Doing so would immediately make impeachment more possible, as Democrats would only need a majority vote in the House. In the Senate, a two-thirds vote is necessary for conviction, which would be a higher bar. 

Republicans are telling voters that Democrats are getting ready to impeach Trump, partly to energize the GOP base ahead of the election. They see the argument as an effective one to bring voters to the polls. 

“If Democrats gain control of the House in November, I have no doubt they will begin impeachment proceedings,” said Republican strategist Alice Stewart. “They want nothing more than to see President Trump removed from office.” 

But Stewart said Democrats are clearly walking a fine line as to not appear overtly political. 

“The problem with telegraphing it early is that it shows swing voters that Democrats can’t be trusted to govern or rise about the dysfunction,” she said.

In December, about four dozen Democrats voted to take up a resolution by Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenWe need a climate plan for agriculture No industry will be impacted by climate change worse than agriculture Five factors that will determine gun control debate MORE (D-Texas) to impeach Trump but it was shot down by a 364-58 vote. 

Tom Steyer, the Democratic activist and billionaire, has spent approximately $40 million on ads pushing for impeachment. 

Democratic leaders, however, have consistently resisted the efforts.

“It doesn’t do us any favors to be out there pushing for impeachment,” said one Democratic strategist. “It’s more helpful for the Mueller investigation to play out and then we can take it from there based on the findings.” 

In a tweet earlier this week, David Axelrod, who served as chief strategist to former President Obama, echoed a similar sentiment. “Dems should NOT commit to impeachment unless & until there’s a demonstrable case for one. It is not just a matter of politics. It’s a matter of principle. If we normalize impeachment as a political tool, it will be another hammer blow to our Democracy.” 

In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday night, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Democrats in general should not run on the idea of impeaching Trump. 

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“It would not be the right thing to do,” Nadler said. 

Stewart said she attended the small National Republican Congressional Committee dinner where Chairman Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Republicans offer support for Steve King challenger The United States broken patent system is getting worse MORE (R-Ohio) addressed the threat of impeachment against Trump, as reported this week by The New York Times. 

“I agree with his statement that this issue fires up the party base and is beneficial for us to remind voters of this through the midterms,” she said.