Pelosi presses Dems to focus on agenda post-Mueller

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D-Calif.) and other House Democratic leaders on Tuesday pressed their caucus to focus on its legislative agenda days after special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE concluded his investigation without making any new charges against President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE or figures in his administration.

Pelosi said the party should focus on lowering health care costs and the rest of their policy agenda, and she urged her caucus to stay focused on the tasks ahead at a closed-door caucus meeting.

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"This is really important today. Because we must with all that is going on stay focused on our purpose," Pelosi said, mentioning "lower health care costs, bigger paychecks and cleaner government.

"And thank you to the caucus for staying focused in that way," Pelosi added, according to an aide in the room.

Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesJeffries: 'Sick and cynical' for GOP to blame Pelosi for Jan. 6 Democrat unveils bill to allow only House members to serve as Speaker Progressive fighting turns personal on internal call over antitrust bills MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, did not even refer to the Mueller report in his opening statement at a press conference after the closed-door caucus meeting, instead focusing on health care issues.

Mueller's findings were a blow to Democrats, and the White House has used them to go on offense, arguing the media and Democratic lawmakers overinflated stories about a Trump-Russia conspiracy.

A four-page summary of the report from Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote Native Americans are targets of voter suppression too MORE stated that Mueller's investigation didn't find evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential election. Barr's memo also said that Mueller did not conclude whether Trump obstructed justice, though it said the findings also did not exonerate him.

Pelosi's message after the deflating news was for her caucus to keep their heads down and work, even as she indicated that investigations launched by Democratic chairmen will continue.

"Be calm. Take a deep breath. Don't become like them," Pelosi said, referring to Republicans. "We have to handle this professionally, officially, patriotically, strategically."

"Let's just get the goods," Pelosi added.

She also put a positive spin on the end of the Mueller probe, noting it had resulted in a number of indictments.

"Some people are viewing it as a glass half-full, glass half-empty. I think half-full. There's so many indictments that came out of what he did. People will go to jail from what his investigation is about," Pelosi said in the closed-door meeting.

Pelosi and Democrats received a political gift of sorts from Trump on Monday when the administration backed overturning ObamaCare in its entirety as part of a continuing lawsuit in the courts.

Democrats believe they won the House majority last fall in part on health care, and the Trump administration's legal position of backing ObamaCare's complete destruction is something the party believes it can use against the GOP on the campaign trail.

It also gave Democrats something else to talk about on Tuesday besides Mueller's report.

Pelosi reiterated her push for a release of the full Mueller report, arguing that a summary from a political appointee like Barr should not be the final word.

"We have to see the report. We cannot make a judgement on the basis of an interpretation by a man who was hired for his job because he believes the president is above the law and he wrote a 19-page memo to demonstrate that," Pelosi said.

That theme — that Barr is a biased judge who lacks the credibility to make determinations about Mueller’s report on his own — was being echoed by Democratic leaders across the Capitol Tuesday morning. The Democrats are quick to note that Barr, a former attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, delivered an unsolicited letter to the Justice Department last year seeking to dissuade Mueller’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerProgressives camp outside Capitol to protest evictions House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (D-Md.) said Democrats "believe the attorney general indicated his bias" with that letter. And Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the four-page summary is "not adequate," since it "may be colored by the attorney general's personal views."

Earlier this month, the House passed a resolution 420-0, with four Republicans voting "present," calling for the Mueller report to be made available to the public and Congress.

In the meantime, Democrats are also focusing on their investigations of the Trump administration, many of which do not relate to Russian election interference.

“Our investigations across the board continue full speed ahead and the agenda, we're working on the agenda. Most important of all it continues full speed ahead — those are the messages. We'll use whatever tools we have to make sure that report is provided to Congress and to the American people,” said Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyHouse bill targets US passport backlog Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe Tlaib, Democrats slam GOP calls for border oversight to fight opioid crisis MORE (D-Va.).

Schiff has come under particularly intense fire from Republican leaders, since he had made public statements before the conclusion of the Mueller report suggesting there was already evidence of "collusion" between Trump and Russia. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate After police rip Trump for Jan. 6, McCarthy again blames Pelosi Capitol Police asked to arrest the maskless MORE (R-Calif.), among other Republicans, have pushed for Schiff to lose his seat atop the Intelligence Committee.

Schiff on Tuesday dismissed the effort as a partisan messaging tactic — one he intends to ignore.

"I'm used to attacks from the president and his allies in Congress," he said, "so this is really nothing new and nothing unexpected."

Hoyer also came to Schiff's defense, saying the California lawmaker is “going to be chairman of that committee for a long time to come."