ROCKVILLE – After Special Counsel Robert Mueller spoke publicly for the first time since his report on the president and possible Russian collusion became public, calls for impeachment have continued to increase.
Mueller’s report cleared Trump and his campaign of the accusation that they conspired with the Russian government to win the 2016 Presidential Election. It did not investigate the charge of collusion because there is no legal standard for it, according to the report.
In his first public statement, Mueller reiterated that the Russian government attempted to interfere in the election, there was no evidence that Trump or his campaign knowingly worked together with the Russian government and he could not say whether Trump or not committed obstruction of justice.
“As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” Mueller said in a public statement on May 29. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the President did commit a crime.”
Now, the obstruction of justice accusation — not the Russian collusion allegation — is what has prompted some lawmakers to call for Trump’s impeachment. In his statement, Mueller had noted that according to Department of Justice guidelines, a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.
Some Democrats took Mueller’s statement as a recommendation that the House of Representatives needs to begin the process of impeachment, given that Mueller cannot charge Trump himself.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, said that the House needs to begin an impeachment inquiry. Only the House of Representatives and the judiciary committee are likely to determine where the process of impeachment would begin.
“The Special Counsel Report contains substantial evidence of repeated acts of presidential obstruction of justice, and Donald Trump escaped criminal indictment by a mere technicality—the Department of Justice policy that it will not indict a sitting president,” Raskin said in a statement.
The allegations of obstruction of justice stem from Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. While a memo cited Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email case as a reason for his firing, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt in an interview that he did it because of the Russian investigation.
That prompted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller, to investigate Russian interference and determine whether Trump illegally interfered in the investigation. After almost two years of investigation, Mueller submitted his report to Attorney General William Barr.
Mueller’s decision to speak publicly has helped strengthen calls for impeachment. While many Democrats have insinuated that the president colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 election, the calls of late have shifted to a focus on obstruction of justice.
In recent weeks, many House Democrats have pushed Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), to move toward impeaching Trump, but so far she has resisted beginning the process of impeachment.
Only a simple majority in the House of Representatives is needed to impeach a president, but a vote is unlikely to be called without support from Pelosi. If Trump is impeached, the Republican-controlled Senate will hold a trial on the impeachment charges; a two-thirds majority is required for the president to be removed from office.
While some Democrats have encouraged Pelosi to trigger impeachment proceedings, others have remained more coy, not saying whether they support it or not.
“Despite President Trump and Attorney General Barr’s attempts to mislead the public about the findings of the Mueller investigation, the Special Counsel today made himself crystal clear,” Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) said. “First, no matter what Trump claims, this report did not exonerate him. Mueller himself said that if he was confident that the President didn’t commit a crime, he would have said so—he did not. Second, there were ‘multiple, systematic efforts’ by Russia to interfere in our elections, and that ‘deserves the attention of every American.”