Democrats leave impeachment on the table

Democrats leave impeachment on the table
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Top Democrats are making it clear they're open to pursuing impeachment against President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE even if the effort is likely to be unsuccessful, days after the release of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's report on Russian election interference.

Three Democratic committee chairmen on Sunday discussed the possibility of impeachment proceedings, while emphasizing that a decision won't be made overnight, as their party must deliberate on the contents of Mueller's report and the underlying evidence.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCohen says Trump attorney told him to say Trump Tower talks ended earlier than they did Cohen told lawmakers that Trump lawyer Sekulow instructed him to lie about Moscow tower project: report Supreme Court declines to hear case on businesses' political contributions MORE (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said they'll have to decide soon "what is the best thing for the country" when it comes to impeachment. House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget On The Money: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls House Oversight Committee requests information on reported Trump plan to send TSA employees to border MORE (D-Md.), meanwhile, said that even though an impeachment effort would likely be unsuccessful, "there comes a point in life where we all have to make decisions based upon the fact that it is our watch."

"Impeachment is likely to be unsuccessful" without bipartisan consensus, Schiff said on ABC. The comment was in reference to warnings by Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE (D-Calif.) that impeachment would divide the country.

But Schiff added that "it may be that we undertake an impeachment nonetheless." 

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Mueller's 22-month long investigation did not find evidence of coordination between President Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia, but it did detail several cases of potential obstruction of justice.

Those episodes included Trump's firing of FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyClash with Trump marks latest break with GOP leaders for Justin Amash Giuliani says Trump is 'doing the right thing' by resisting congressional subpoenas Giuliani strikes back at Comey: 'No one really respects him' MORE and efforts to deny that he ordered then-White House counsel Don McGahn to demand the special counsel be removed.

After reviewing 10 examples that could constitute obstruction, Mueller did not reach a conclusion on the issue, but did mention that Congress has the authority to conduct obstruction of justice investigations.

“With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” Mueller wrote in his more than 400-page report. 

Mueller added that he reached this conclusion after his office set out to examine the past legal precedent governing such matters because the Department of Justice (DOJ) and courts have “not definitively resolved these issues."

"We therefore examined those issues through the framework established by the Supreme Court precedent governing separation-of-powers issues," he wrote.

Subsequently, some Democrats like Schiff have not shied away from suggesting impeachment proceedings could be undertaken to make a determination on obstruction of justice. 

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerDemocrats are running out of stunts to pull from impeachment playbook Trump asks if Nadler will look into Clinton's 'deleted and acid washed' emails Trump tweets conservative commentator's criticism of FBI director MORE (D-N.Y.) refused to rule out proceedings on Sunday.

He told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Congress will have to receive an unredacted copy of Mueller's report and “have to hear from” Mueller and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget Barr says he's working to protect presidency, not Trump Press: Justin Amash breaks ranks with party MORE before reaching a determination on impeachment.

“Some of this would be impeachable,” Nadler said, referring to Trump's actions laid out in Mueller's report. “Obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable," he added.

Cummings said "history would smile upon [the House] for standing up for the Constitution" if impeachment proceedings are started during an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation." 

Other Democrats have more explicitly called for impeachment.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Memo: Trump faces steep climb to reelection Feehery: A whole new season of 'Game of Thrones' Overnight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan MORE (D-Mass.) became the first major 2020 presidential candidate to wade into the issue Friday when she called for impeachment proceedings.

"The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States," Warren tweeted.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSteve Bullock puts Citizens United decision at center of presidential push Fix the climate with smaller families Dem Sen. Markey faces potential primary challenge in Massachusetts MORE (D-N.Y.) said Thursday she would sign on to Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDemocrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure Top House Dem calls to launch impeachment inquiry if McGahn skips testimony Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution MORE's (D-Mich.) resolution to examine whether Trump committed impeachable offenses.

But several prominent Democrats have thrown cold water on impeachment talks.

Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerSenators say they've reached deal on Puerto Rico aid 5 things to watch as Trump, Dems clash over investigations GOP lawmaker: Trump has engaged in multiple actions that 'meet the threshold for impeachment' MORE (D-Md.) have urged members of their party to pump the brakes on the proceedings.

Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget CNN announces four more town halls featuring 2020 Dems De Blasio pitches himself as tough New Yorker who can take on 'Don the con' MORE (D-Ohio), another 2020 candidate, agreed with Democratic leadership on Sunday.

"This is very, very, very serious. I believe that the first step is to have Rep. Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerDemocrats are running out of stunts to pull from impeachment playbook Trump asks if Nadler will look into Clinton's 'deleted and acid washed' emails Trump tweets conservative commentator's criticism of FBI director MORE (D-N.Y.) continue to open up this investigation to better understand this. We are just getting this document," Ryan said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” stressing the need to "educate" the public. 

Trump and his team have taken a victory lap following the report's release, calling the results total and complete exoneration.