The redacted version of the Mueller report is now available from the attorney general. Here are the key takeaways from it.
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday weighed in on divisions in her caucus over starting impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, following special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“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,” Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats on Monday afternoon. “It is also important to know that the facts regarding holding the President accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings.”
She added: “Whether currently indictable or not, it is clear that the President has, at a minimum, engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior which does not bring honor to the office he holds.”
House Democrats were set to join a conference call at 5 p.m. Monday – their first time since Mueller’s redacted report was released last week.
The 448-page report detailed multiple contacts between Russian operatives and Trump associates during the 2016 campaign but investigators did not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy. The report documented a series of actions by Trump to derail the special counsel’s investigation, although it did not reach a conclusion on whether he illegally sought to obstruct justice.
Lawmakers are on a two-week-long recess and most have been back home in their districts, or traveling abroad like Pelosi was last week.
Democrats seized on what they said were “damning” details in the report, particularly the attempts by the president to interfere with the probe. Some Democrats, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president, said Friday it was time for the House to begin impeachment proceedings.
But House Democratic leadership was still trying to figure out how to deal with impeachment and keep all factions satisfied. A parade of top Democrats gave interviews over the weekend and refused to rule out impeachment, but they also said there was much more work to be done before making a determination.
“We may get to that. We may not,” Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee – where impeachment proceedings begin – said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday.
“I do think, if proven, which hasn’t been proven yet, if proven, some of this would be impeachable, yes. Obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable,” the New York Democrat said.
Trump on Monday tweeted: “Only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment. There were no crimes by me (No Collusion, No Obstruction), so you can’t impeach. It was the Democrats that committed the crimes, not your Republican President! Tables are finally turning on the Witch Hunt!”
Nadler has said he has asked Mueller to come before his committee before May 23. On Monday, he subpoenaed former White House lawyer Don McGahn, who appeared prominently in the report, to appear by May 21. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has also requested Mueller come before his committee next month.
Democrats point to a section of the report that said “Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority” as justification to continue the investigation.
“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 authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” the report reads.
“Once you start reading the report, it’s very clear that Mueller is jumping up and down and saying, ‘Congress, do what I can’t do,’ ” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a member of the Intelligence Committee, told USA TODAY last week.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said Democrats are misinterpreting the sentence. Collins believes Mueller and his team were saying Congress could make laws.
Collins went to the Department of Justice on Monday to read a less-redacted version of the report.
“With the special counsel’s investigation complete, I encourage Chairman Nadler and Democrat leaders to view this material as soon as possible – unless they’re afraid to acknowledge the facts this report outlines,” Collins said after viewing the report.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., along with chairs and top Democrats on the Judiciary and Intelligence committees in both chambers, rejected an offer from Attorney General William Barr to see a less-redacted version of the report Monday, calling it “unacceptable.” Democrats have subpoenaed for the full report.
Barr insists he can’t provide grand-jury information in the report because it is prohibited by the law governing the secrecy of jury deliberations. Barr offered lawmakers a chance to review redactions to the report that didn’t include grand-jury information beginning Monday, but Democrats rejected the offer and insisted on seeing the unaltered report.
Democrats have argued that in investigations of former President Richard Nixon and former President Bill Clinton, prosecutors themselves asked a court to release grand-jury evidence to Congress.
The Watergate records were ordered released by Judge John Sirica, the chief judge of the District Court. The Whitewater records were released by a special panel of the federal appeals court in D.C., at the request of independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
In this case, neither Mueller nor Barr asked a court to approve the release of grand-jury information, so House lawyers say they may have to ask the court themselves, without the Justice Department accompanying them.
Congressional Republicans, led by Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Collins, have said they don’t need to see grand-jury information.
Contributing: Bart Jansen
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