Washington • Buoyed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s statement Wednesday, more Democrats called for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, though Utah’s only Democrat in Congress said such action requires a “high bar” and would need to be bipartisan.
Rep. Ben McAdams said that he’s more focused on fixing crumbling bridges and roads, combating rising health care costs and protecting Social Security and Medicare than he is on the question of whether Trump tried to obstruct Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“Congress will continue its oversight role,” McAdams said. “Any impeachment proceedings would be initiated by a committee that I’m not a member of, and for me, would require meeting a high bar and would have to be sufficiently bipartisan.”
In a rare move, Mueller spoke to reporters briefly Wednesday morning, saying he’s closing his office and retiring to the private sector. The special counsel reiterated points in his 448-page report that didn’t find collusion between Trump’s team and Russia in its interference in the 2016 election but detailed instances where Trump tried to thwart the investigation.
“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
Mueller said his office acted on the basis of Justice Department protocol that doesn't allow the government to indict a sitting president, even if that indictment was sealed until he left office.
“Charging the president with a crime was not an option we could consider," Mueller said.
The special counsel’s comments — he didn’t take questions and said if called to testify before Congress he wouldn’t add anything that wasn’t already in his report — prompted several high-profile Democrats to say the next move is for the House to launch impeachment proceedings.
“Given that special counsel Mueller was unable to pursue criminal charges against the president, it falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump — and we will do so,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said. “No one, not even the President of the United States, is above the law.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat who is running for president, said Mueller's comments were directed at Congress to take action.
“What Robert Mueller basically did was return an impeachment referral,” the former prosecutor said on Twitter. “Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable. We need to start impeachment proceedings. It’s our constitutional obligation."
Another Democrat running for president, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, said, “This is as close to an impeachment referral as you could get under the circumstances.”
Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican and member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the Mueller probe is over and the facts are out there already.
“Special counsel Mueller had one job: to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He did just that," Stewart said. "He found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. It is now time for us to move on as a nation.”
McAdams, a freshman, said the president and Congress need to pay attention to Mueller’s comments that Russia’s attempt to hack the U.S. elections was a “systemic” problem and one that needs to be addressed.
“Congress and the president must prevent ongoing attempts by foreign governments to commit cybersecurity attacks and other crimes to meddle in our elections,” McAdams said.
The White House took a victory lap Wednesday, arguing that Mueller did not find the president committed any crimes and that Democrats need to move on.
“The special counsel has completed the investigation, closed his office, and has closed the case,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. “Mr. Mueller explicitly said that he has nothing to add beyond the report, and therefore, does not plan to testify before Congress. The report was clear — there was no collusion, no conspiracy — and the Department of Justice confirmed there was no obstruction. Special counsel Mueller also stated that Attorney General [William] Barr acted in good faith in his handling of the report. After two years, the special counsel is moving on with his life, and everyone else should do the same.”
Sen. Mike Lee’s office said the Utah Republican would not have any comment on Mueller’s remarks Wednesday. Utah’s other members of Congress did not immediately respond to requests for comment.