House Democratic leaders push investigations of Trump, not impeachment

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By Rebecca Shabad, Frank Thorp V and Leigh Ann Caldwell

WASHINGTON — House Democratic leaders on Monday promised to pursue aggressive and extensive investigations into President Donald Trump — but would not commit to beginning impeachment proceedings.

During a conference call with rank-and-file members, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., her leadership team and the chairs of major oversight committees outlined how Democrats would proceed in the wake of the public release of the redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, according to two leadership aides on the call.

“We have to save our democracy. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about saving our democracy,” Pelosi said, according to a person on the call. “If it is what we need to do to honor our responsibility to the Constitution — if that’s the place the facts take us, that’s the place we have to go.”

“We don’t have to go to articles of impeachment to obtain the facts, the presentation of facts,” Pelosi added.

Pelosi said as much in a letter to her caucus released earlier Monday, writing that the “facts regarding holding the President accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings.”

At least two lawmakers, Reps. Val Demings of Florida and Jared Huffman of California, both spoke up in support of impeachment, according to the two sources on the call.

Huffman said he made the argument during the call that Democrats should no longer worry about impeachment further dividing the country. He said it’s not good for the country not to impeach.

“It’s bad for the country if Congress punts,” he said. “I think the script has flipped on political calculations. It’s far harder to defend inaction in the face of what we know.”

Demings said she believes Congress has enough evidence begin proceedings, her spokesman said.

House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., was the odd woman out among committee leaders during the call to make clear that she still supports impeachment.

“Everybody knows I’m for impeachment,” she said.

The House Democrats’ conference call occurred while lawmakers are on recess. As Democrats digested Mueller’s report late last week, some key members expressed support for impeachment proceedings.

On Friday, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren became the first Democratic presidential contender to call on the House to start impeachment proceedings against Trump. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said she would sign onto an impeachment resolution introduced by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.

When asked whether Democrats might pursue impeachment, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Friday, “We may very well come to that very soon.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., whose panel would have the power to begin impeachment proceedings, also has not ruled that out. Asked if holding Trump accountable means impeachment, Nadler said last Thursday, “That’s one possibility — there are others.”

Nadler on Friday subpoenaed the Justice Department for the full, unredacted version of Mueller’s report as well as the underlying evidence, giving the DOJ until May 1 to comply.

On Monday, he issued a subpoena to the president’s former White House counsel, Don McGahn, for testimony and documents as part the panel’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice by the president and others.

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, spoke to reporters Monday after reading a less-redacted version of Mueller’s report at DOJ, saying that what he read did not change the findings of “no collusion.”

He also criticized Democratic leaders for rejecting Attorney General William Barr’s offer to view a less-redacted version of the report on a restricted basis, saying the Democrats were more interested in scoring political points than seeing additional information in the report.

“Nothing that I saw here today, at the end of the day, changed Mr. Mueller’s decision,” Collins said. “Nothing went any further except we had no collusion after a long and thorough investigation. We had no obstruction, no charge, there’s nothing there. Nothing today changes those results from last week.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after an event in Owensboro, Ky., that the country should “move on.”

“Well, look, I think it’s time to move on,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters when asked about possible impeachment proceedings. “This investigation was about collusion, there’s no collusion, no charges brought against the president on anything else, and I think the American people have had quite enough of it, and it’s time to move on.”

Eileen Street contributed.