Top Democrat: 'Obstruction of justice' is 'too clear not to include' in impeachment probe

Top Democrat: 'Obstruction of justice' is 'too clear not to include' in impeachment probe
© Stefani Reynolds

Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the No. 3 House Democrat, said Tuesday that the House should include obstruction of justice charges should it ultimately vote on articles of impeachment against President TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial MORE.

McClatchy reports that Clyburn said in a brief interview that the charges of obstruction would stem from the findings of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE, who conducted a two-year investigation into Russia's election meddling in 2016 but declined to recommend criminal charges against the president or his closest advisers.

“Oh lord, yes, things have changed a whole lot since these testimonies,” Clyburn told the outlet, referring to the House Intelligence Committee’s depositions and hearings regarding Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, the focal point of the current impeachment investigation. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“Obstruction of justice, I think, is too clear not to include,” he was quoted saying.

Clyburn's office confirmed to The Hill that the McClatchy report is "accurate that his preference is that the articles of impeachment include obstruction of justice."

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSekulow indicates White House not interested in motion to dismiss impeachment articles Overnight Health Care: Trump restores funding for Texas program that bars Planned Parenthood | Trump to attend March for Life | PhRMA spent record on 2019 lobbying Key House committee chairman to meet with Mnuchin on infrastructure next week MORE’s (D-Calif.) office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill on Tuesday night.

The remarks are some of the most forceful to date from a member of House Democratic leadership as party leaders weigh their next steps in the impeachment probe.

The House Intelligence Committee voted Tuesday night to send its report to the Judiciary panel, which is charged with considering any potential articles that would warrant impeachment.

ADVERTISEMENT

Pelosi has insisted that the party has made no decisions on whether to draft articles of impeachment against Trump.

But Clyburn's remarks suggested an apparent source of continued disagreement within the Democratic Caucus over how limited or broad the chamber's investigation should be.

Pelosi and top aides have so far remained cautious of expanding the probe beyond allegations that Trump worked to leverage a White House visit and nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to get Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden MORE and 2016 election meddling.

Despite Clyburn's remarks invoking Mueller, an aide to the House Judiciary Committee dismissed speculation that the former special counsel's findings could be included in the House's inquiry.

“Leadership has been pretty clear that’s not going to happen,” a Judiciary aide told McClatchy.

While moderates have warned that expanding the impeachment probe’s focus could make the investigation even harder to defend to voters in swing districts, progressives have argued that Mueller’s findings are too convincing to ignore.

The former special counsel outlined 10 “episodes” of potentially obstructive behavior involving Trump and the investigation into contacts between his campaign and Russian officials, but declined to bring any charges against the president, citing a long-standing Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president.