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Democrats after Mueller: Let's talk about health care

Impeachment moves to the back burner as 2020 Democrats focus on issues.

by Rex Santus
Mar 26 2019, 5:42pm

The post-Mueller comedown is proving difficult for some Democrats to reckon with.

After a dramatic, highly publicized probe into President Donald Trump’s campaign, special counsel Robert Mueller concluded last week that the Trump campaign did not conspire with Russia to undermine the 2016 U.S. election. And Democrats don’t really seem ready to unite behind what to do next.

While there are some Democrats eager to push forward with the House’s investigations of Trump — and at least one lawmaker still calling for impeachment — many prominent officials seem more eager to focus on big policy ideas than a Trump investigation, ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

After all, rallying cries for universal health care and affordable higher education are at least partially responsible for the success the party saw in the 2018 midterms — and what minted its star freshman class, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar.

One thing all Democrats seem to agree on: They want Mueller’s full report. Top Democrats demanded that Attorney General William Barr turn over the report by April 2, according to Politico, with the possibility of a subpoena if Barr doesn’t meet the deadline.

Read more: 6 huge questions Barr's letter on the Mueller report failed to answer

The chairs of six House committees sent a letter to Barr on Monday that said his four-page summary of Mueller’s findings were “not sufficient” in light of the fact that Mueller did not decide whether Trump committed obstruction of justice during the probe. “Congress must be permitted to make an independent assessment of the evidence regarding obstruction of justice,” the letter said.

Along with the letter, some top Democrats, including Financial Services Committee Chair Rep. Maxine Waters, are emphatic that House investigations of the president, at least, are far from over.

“This is not the end of anything,” Waters said on MSNBC on Sunday. “Well, it is the end of the report and the investigation by Mueller, but those of us who share these committees with our oversight because there is so much that needs to be taken a look at at this point. It is not the end of everything.”

What ever happened to impeachment?

If you’re banking on Democrats impeaching Trump in the lead-up the 2020 election, then you’re in for some bad news. Some Democrats once eager to talk about impeachment are now backing away.

Rep. Brad Sherman of California, who has twice filed articles of impeachment against Trump, said the Mueller report was the best chance that Democrats had to go after him.

“Whatever the bet was last week that the president wouldn’t finish out his term, that bet is not as good this week,” Sherman told Politico on Monday.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, has previously said she disagreed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over impeachment after Pelosi said impeaching Trump was “just not worth it.” After the initial disclosures from the Mueller report, however, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Sunday that Trump is just a signifier of worse issues in the United States. “As horrific as this president is, he is a symptom of much deeper problems,” she tweeted.

Still, there are at least two Democrats still calling for an impeachment campaign against Trump. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, made waves back in January when she said Congress would “impeach the motherfucker.” And she seems to be standing by her word. Tlaib is reportedly privately sending a letter to colleagues urging them to back a resolution calling for the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Trump committed impeachable offenses.

“The most dangerous threat to our democracy is President Trump’s actions since taking the oath of office,” Tlaib said in the Monday letter. “The fact that President Trump has yet to comply with various clauses of our U.S. Constitution sets a dangerous precedent. Much of the allegations have yet to be fully investigated by this body, who also took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. It is critical that we protect the American people and our country from any conflicts of interests that directly erodes our democracy.”

Texas Rep. Al Green also said he would pursue impeachment, because Mueller’s report did not account for “bigotry emanating from the Presidency harming our country.”

The post-Mueller plan

So Democrats seem, at the very least, divided over the possibility of a Trump impeachment. 2020 Democrats, in particular, would much rather spend their time talking about policy than the impeachment of the former “Apprentice” star.

“I just spent the last two days doing public events in New Hampshire. I took a ton of questions. You know how many questions I got about the Mueller report? Zero,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren told TMZ on Monday after she was physically chased down in a train station. (The senator and 2020 presidential candidate was running to catch a train.)

“People want to know about the things that touch their lives every day,” she said “People get it. There’s a problem; we need to see the report. But ultimately what 2020 is going to be about is: Is this government going to keep working for the rich and powerful and not anybody else?”

The sentiment seems to be the same among other presidential contenders, who are indeed still going after Trump — but as it pertains to his policy, such as healthcare, not his alleged connections to the Kremlin. No candidate has said much about the Mueller report, apart from the fact that it should be made public.

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Sunday that Americans — and Democrats — have more important things to worry about than one politician.

“He can stay, he can go. He can be impeached, or voted out in 2020,” she tweeted. “But removing Trump will not remove the infrastructure of an entire party that embraced him; the dark money that funded him; the online radicalization that drummed his army; nor the racism he amplified+reanimated.”

Cover image: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a campaign house party, Friday, March 15, 2019, in Salem, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)