WASHINGTON — Democrats Monday grappled with division in their ranks over the potential impeachment of President Trump, with House leaders urging rank and file lawmakers to move cautiously with committee review of the special counsel’s report.
As Democrats huddled, Trump taunted on Twitter where he declared his innocence: “You can’t impeach,” he wrote.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., spoke to Democratic lawmakers as they moved forward following the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that revealed damaging details, but failed to find sufficient evidence to pursue criminal prosecution against the president.
Pelosi told Democratic lawmakers that while “our views range from proceeding to investigate the findings of the Mueller report or proceeding directly to impeachment, we all firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth.”
She argued that committee chairmen should be allowed to hold hearings to review the special counsel investigation with full access to documents and witnesses before moving forward with impeachment.
“We must show the American people we are proceeding free from passion or prejudice, strictly on the presentation of fact,” Pelosi wrote colleagues before the conference call.
‘You can’t impeach’
Trump, meanwhile, claimed total exoneration in tweets and comments Monday.
“Only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment,” Trump tweeted. “There were no crimes by me (No Collusion, No Obstruction), so you can’t impeach.”
Congressional Democrats are united in seeking full access to documents behind the redacted 448-page report, where Mueller found no evidence of collusion, but refused to exonerate Trump in several incidents where the president allegedly sought to obstruct the investigation.
The Mueller report outlines attempts by Trump to get staff and insiders to interfere or obstruct the investigation. But Mueller, while pointedly not exonerating the president on potential obstruction charges, left to Congress the decision on whether to prosecute.
Pelosi said the president, “at a minimum, engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior which does not bring honor to the office he holds.”
But she also pointed out that it “appears that Congressional Republicans have an unlimited appetite for such low standards.”
Chances slim in Senate
Without bipartisan support, Democratic leaders have warned impeachment proceedings could grind to a halt in the GOP-controlled Senate, which is charged with trying impeachment cases. It takes a two-thirds vote, or 66 senators, to remove a president from office. Currently, the Senate is comprised of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats.
Pelosi told her colleagues to return to Washington next week and focus on domestic issues.
In addition, Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and other congressional Democratic leaders have rejected Attorney General William Barr’s invitation for a select group of lawmakers to review the unredacted report.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., issued subpoenas for the full report, documents and grand jury testimony that formed the basis of the report following a two-year investigation.
The Justice Department has until May 1 to comply with the legal request.
On Monday, Nadler’s panel issued a subpoena for the testimony of White House counsel Don McGahn, who told the special counsel he refused the president’s order to fire or remove Mueller from the investigation.
Meanwhile, Pelosi and House Democratic leaders tried to tamp down the call for impeachment hearings from a growing chorus of liberal lawmakers elected from politically safe seats.
That chorus has been fueled by Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Julian Castro, former San Antonio mayor and an Obama administration housing secretary, who’ve called for impeachment.
Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Al Green, D-Texas, have legislation to begin the impeachment process. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said she would co-sponsor Tlaib’s resolution.
Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez were part of the wave of Democrats elected in 2018, giving the party control of the House.
But the wave also consisted of historic pickups by Democrats in moderate or Republican-leaning seats in 2018, who want to keep the focus on health care and other bread-and-butter issues while the committees review the special counsel report.
Nevadans not calling for impeachment
All three Nevada Democrats in the House, Reps. Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee, favor efforts by leaders to seek full access to documents and testimony from Barr and Mueller to appear before the Judiciary Committee.
None of them have signed on as co-sponsors of legislation that would call for impeachment proceedings, however.
Horsford and Lee were elected in 2018 following competitive races.
“Now more than ever, it’s important that Congress receives the full, unredacted special counsel report, as members of both parties have requested,” Lee said in a statement.
“In the meantime, I will continue to be focused on working for the people of Southern Nevada — protecting their access to affordable health care, improving education, and honoring our promise to veterans,” Lee said.
Titus, the dean of the Nevada congressional delegation, said after the report’s release that everyone should be “alarmed by the extent to which President Trump has shown a disregard for the rule of law and a disdain for the basic principles of our democracy.”
But she stopped short of calling for impeachment.
Titus also is seeking documents in her investigation into the president’s business dealings with the federal government and his lease at the Old Post Office, which houses the Trump hotel in Washington.
Pelosi told Democratic colleagues Monday that they would continue to push for full access of all documents and testimony considered in the special counsel investigation included in the report.
Barr is expected to testify next week before the House and Senate judiciary committees.
Nadler also has requested Mueller testify before the House panel, later, but Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has not asked for the special counsel to testify about the report and years-long investigation.