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 TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments 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 MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump 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. 

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“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 Pelosi 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments Bloomberg: Trump should be impeached On The Money: Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown | Trump asks Supreme Court to shield financial records from House Democrats | House passes bill to explicitly ban insider trading 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.

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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 BidenTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan Castro hits fundraising threshold for December debate Buttigieg draws fresh scrutiny, attacks in sprint to Iowa 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.