More top Democrats are starting to say the word “impeach” after they heard from special counsel Robert Mueller for the first time in more than years.
At least three 2020 presidential candidates who are also U.S. senators, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand, are now calling for an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s presidency.
“What Robert Mueller basically did was return an impeachment referral. Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable,” Harris tweeted after Mueller’s surprise public statement Wednesday. “We need to start impeachment proceedings. It's our constitutional obligation.”
Booker, meanwhile, tweeted that impeachment proceedings were the “only path forward.” Gillibrand also called for an impeachment inquiry to begin.
But the Democrat that matters most — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — is staying away from the i-word. The House is the only U.S. government body with the congressional authority to begin an impeachment inquiry. It’s also the only U.S. government body that Democrats currently control.
READ: Robert Mueller's first statement in more than two years on the Russia investigation
Pelosi and numerous others highlighted a particular bit of information from Mueller. He said that his 448-page report purposefully did not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice charges.
“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” Mueller said. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
Pelosi, however, didn’t call for an impeachment inquiry. She instead called for the Senate to pass H.R. 1, which would expand votings and limit partisan gerrymandering, among other things. The legislation has nothing to do with impeachment.
“The Congress holds sacred its constitutional responsibility to investigate and hold the President accountable for his abuse of power,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy. The American people must have the truth. We call upon the Senate to pass H.R. 1, the For The People Act, to protect our election systems.”
The nation’s No. 2 Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, sent out a string of tweets similar in tone to Pelosi’s but avoided the word “impeachment” entirely.
That puts the top two Democrats at odds with an ever-growing branch of their own party who have begun calling for Trump’s impeachment. Most prominently, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who is also running for president, doubled down on her previous assertion that Congress should begin impeachment proceedings, which she announced shortly after reading Mueller’s report.
But the impeachment camp remains relatively small. Other members of the party’s progressive wing, such as the co-chairs of the progressive caucus Reps. Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal, reiterated their position that an impeachment proceedings should begin. And two of the party’s most famous freshman members, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, both once again called for an impeachment inquiry.
Just one Republican in Congress so far, Rep. Justin Amash, has called for President Trump’s impeachment over the weekend. The move has already drawn Amash a primary challenge from a local lawmaker, Rep. Jim Lower.
Reps. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, refused to commit to an impeachment inquiry and instead said “all options” were on the table. His committee is responsible for impeachments of federal officials.
“The Constitution points to Congress to take action to hold the President accountable,” Nadler said in a statement Wednesday. “That’s exactly what we’ll do.”
Cover: U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris listen as Attorney General William Barr prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on May 1,2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)