Trump on Mueller report: This should never happen to another president
President Donald Trump’s tweet calling Miami Rep. Frederica Wilson “wacky” was once seen as justification for impeachment.
The 2017 resolution by Texas Rep. Al Green argued that Trump “harmed the society of the United States” by calling white supremacists “very fine people” while name-calling members of Congress on Twitter, and 58 Democrats, including Wilson, voted to keep the resolution on the table against the objections of party leaders.
But 16 months later, days after Robert Mueller’s redacted 448 page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential obstruction by the president was released, the number of Democrats in Congress backing impeachment can be counted on two hands.
Wilson herself isn’t on board.
“As damning as the Mueller report is, I think that Democrats should let history be our guide,” Wilson said. “When Congress impeached President Bill Clinton, his job approval rating rose while the House suffered historic losses. We need to be on a much more solid ground before we can convince the American public, including Democrats, that Mr. Trump should be impeached.”
Wilson’s argument is that Democrats must build their own case to potentially impeach or exonerate Trump through hearings and additional documents, a sentiment shared by every South Florida Democrat in the House, where impeachment proceedings must begin.
“Nothing changed,” Rep. Donna Shalala said, adding that she read the report in its entirety in recent days. “I think we are a ways away from making a decision on impeachment. This report for the administration I think describes a kind of chaos that we have come to expect with the White House, but Mueller laid out very carefully the obstruction charge. He didn’t charge the president. He was very respectful of the Justice Department’s opinion that you could not indict a sitting president.”
Shalala previously faced calls to impeach Trump during her 2018 primary, though she did not support the idea at the time.
But as most House members fall into line, a small group of high-profile first-year members and 2020 presidential candidates are itching for impeachment proceedings to begin. After reading the report, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she’ll sign on to an impeachment resolution, while 2020 presidential candidates and Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are in favor of impeaching Trump.
Wilson, who represents Florida’s most liberal congressional district, says such an approach plays into Trump’s hands.
“The Republican propaganda machine has been surprisingly successful at using social media, email and the internet to win over voters who don’t have the time to pore over the report’s details or even the same level of interest as we do,” Wilson said. “We must build an extremely strong and convincing case and win the public’s consent so that they will demand that the Senate also take action and try the president. We also must convince them that no one is above the law, including the president, so impeachment should never be off the table.”
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a member of the House Judiciary Committee that will be the likely venue for future potential high-profile hearings of Mueller and Attorney General William Barr, said their testimony is crucial for determining whether Trump’s actions are impeachable.
“I am deeply concerned about President Trump’s abuses of power outlined in Special Counsel Mueller’s report and Attorney General Barr’s attempts to mislead the American public. That is why we must see the unredacted report and why I look forward to their testimony before the Judiciary Committee,” Mucarsel-Powell said.
Shalala also said a top priority for her is finding out which Florida county was penetrated by Russian hackers, according to an FBI investigation referenced in the Mueller report. The FBI hasn’t responded to inquiries from the media and lawmakers about the successful hack.
“I don’t know why that is a secret, why the name of the county isn’t in that document,” Shalala said. “It’s not protecting anyone’s privacy so that’s one of the questions I want to ask [House Judiciary Chairman Jerry] Nadler.”
Palm Beach Rep. Lois Frankel, who also voted to keep the impeachment resolution on the table in 2017, said Tuesday on CNN that most Democrats are on board with investigating on their own before demanding an impeachment vote that is likely to fail in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“I have many conversations with [Ocasio-Cortez] who is very delightful, very forward-thinking,” Frankel said. “I remind them that it’s okay to have our individual advocacy and opinions but to also remember you’re on a team and everything you say is coming back to all of us.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a member of the House Oversight Committee and the former DNC chair when the Russians hacked the organization’s emails in 2016, said Congress should keep investigating.
“Congress must aggressively pursue the disturbing evidence revealed by the Mueller investigation, wherever that takes us,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Full and complete accountability is essential. At this time, nothing should be placed on or taken off the table until our investigations provide the vital answers that protect our democracy.”
Broward Rep. Ted Deutch, who is also a member of the Judiciary Committee, was traveling out of the country this week but said last week that Congress should further investigate Mueller’s findings.
Even though some members are more open to impeachment than others, Shalala said that pro-impeachment Democrats made it clear in a lengthy conference call on Monday that they won’t arm-twist their colleagues to join them, even as certain liberal activists like billionaire Tom Steyer plan to run TV ads in Miami urging Congress to impeach.
And Broward Rep. Alcee Hastings, a former federal judge who was impeached and removed from the bench in 1989, warned on the conference call that the Democratic leadership’s argument that pursuing impeachment should be based on facts and evidence instead of politics was off base.
“Don’t shy away from the notion that impeachment isn’t political. It is political,” Hastings said, according to The Washington Post.