Democrats aim to re­fo­cus on leg­is­la­tion af­ter Mueller hear­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY GABRIELLA MUNOZ

Democrats said that former special counsel Robert Mueller’s tes­ti­mony to Congress last week didn’t move the nee­dle on im­peach­ing Pres­i­dent Trump, dash­ing the hopes of those who had fig­ured the tes­ti­mony would be a water­shed mo­ment.

In­stead, as they pre­pare for a six-week summer va­ca­tion, Democrats vowed to spend their time back home talk­ing less about in­ves­ti­ga­tions and more about leg­is­la­tion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the next month will be about in­creas­ing pres­sure on sen­a­tors to vote on a va­ri­ety of bills, in­clud­ing a higher min­i­mum wage and an over­haul of cam­paigns and elec­tions.

“We will own Au­gust and make it too hot to han­dle for the Se­nate not to take up our bills,” she said.

Rep. Mark Po­can, a vo­cal ad­vo­cate for start­ing an impeachmen­t in­quiry, said that the Democrats’ agenda is get­ting drowned out.

“Un­for­tu­nately, I think with all the talk about impeachmen­t and all these other out­side is­sues took away from things we’ve ac­tu­ally passed,” the Wis­con­sin Demo­crat said.

Mr. Mueller’s stum­bles dur­ing his six hours of tes­ti­mony about his re­port on Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion and his re­fusal to an­swer some 200 ques­tions de­prived Democrats of what they wanted — a TV-ready sum­ma­tion of the 448-page special counsel’s re­port.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who backs start­ing an impeachmen­t in­quiry, said she was pleased to see the sum­ma­tion of the re­port Mr. Mueller de­liv­ered, but said it didn’t make impeachmen­t more vi­able.

“I sup­port that, but not be­cause I think that’s the way we’re gonna get rid of the pres­i­dent of the United States. It’s the elec­tion in 2020 that’s ul­ti­mately go­ing to get rid of him,” the Illi­nois Demo­crat said.

Many ex­pected Mr. Mueller’s tes­ti­mony to clear the way for more Democrats to back an impeachmen­t in­quiry, join­ing about 90 who are al­ready in fa­vor. But only a cou­ple more pub­licly an­nounced their back­ing af­ter the hear­ing.

House Demo­cratic Cau­cus Vice Chair­woman Katherine Clark was one, be­com­ing the high­est mem­ber of Demo­cratic lead­er­ship to sup­port start­ing the process.

“Through­out his life and pres­i­dency Don­ald Trump has proven him­self un­fit to serve,” she said in a state­ment.

Rep. David Ci­cilline, the party’s mes­sag­ing chair­man, is the only other mem­ber of lead­er­ship who has called for an in­quiry. An­other new impeachmen­t backer is Rep. Lori Tra­han of Mas­sachusetts, who said Mr. Mueller’s tes­ti­mony high­lighted Mr. Trump’s ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.

But Rep. Peter DeFazio of Ore­gon, who also is now sup­port­ing the ef­fort, said Mr. Mueller’s tes­ti­mony wasn’t per­sua­sive.

“He said he wouldn’t go beyond the re­port, and he didn’t even know his re­port very well,” Mr. DeFazio told The Washington Times.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Mary­land, a vo­cal sup­porter of impeachmen­t, agreed that Mr. Mueller’s tes­ti­mony was touch-and-go, but said it helped create a “very pow­er­ful Ar­ti­cle One record of the pres­i­dent’s mis­con­duct.”

House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jer­rold Nadler re­port­edly pushed to start an impeachmen­t in­quiry in a closed-door meet­ing last week af­ter Mr. Mueller’s tes­ti­mony, but party lead­ers re­jected the move.

House Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters he didn’t see much dif­fer­ence be­tween law­mak­ers’ cur­rent myr­iad in­ves­ti­ga­tions and an official impeachmen­t in­quiry.

Mrs. Pelosi said that the next step in those in­ves­ti­ga­tions will be to go to court to get ac­cess to grand jury ma­te­ri­als used in Mr. Mueller’s re­port and to ob­tain tes­ti­mony from former White House Counsel Don McGahn.

Mr. Raskin said he hoped to have the grand jury ma­te­rial and Mr. McGahn’s tes­ti­mony set­tled by the time law­mak­ers re­turn from their Au­gust re­cess.

Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a more mod­er­ate mem­ber from New Jer­sey, said the party needs to come to a de­ci­sion on impeachmen­t soon. He said he would pre­fer they drop the push, say­ing Democrats need to show re­sults in get­ting their agenda signed into law.

“If we just let this over­shadow all these other is­sues for a longer pe­riod of time, we are really en­dan­ger­ing the elec­tion for the Democrats,” he said.

“If we just let this over­shadow all these other is­sues for a longer pe­riod of time, we are really en­dan­ger­ing the elec­tion for the Democrats.” — Rep. Jeff Van Drew, New Jer­sey Demo­crat

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