Democrats returned from a two-week spring break enraged at President Trump — but the appetite for impeachment remains low even in the wake of the release of the special counsel’s report that found evidence of behavior that could be seen as obstruction of justice.
A resolution introduced by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Democrat, to begin impeachment proceedings did pick up supporters Monday, the first day of Congress’ return. The number rose from two to seven.
New supporters included lightning-rod freshmen Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, but none of them was among the heavyweight committee chairs or elected caucus leaders. Such a development would have suggested a change in attitude toward impeachment.
Even Ms. Tlaib, the chief sponsor of the impeachment inquiry, seemed more circumspect, saying investigations are enough.
Many Democrat-led House committees and their chairmen “have done their job by issuing subpoenas, by doing their due diligence in many ways. Even if they don’t take up my resolution to look at them as impeachable offenses, they are still taking it seriously,” she said Tuesday.
That contrasts with the rhetoric from Democratic presidential candidates in the wake of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s lengthy investigation into the 2016 election, Russian meddling and Mr. Trump’s behavior.
Although the investigation found no evidence of a conspiracy between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign to subvert the election, Mr. Mueller said he wouldn’t exonerate the president of obstruction of justice in his efforts to thwart the ensuing probes.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, who are among the presidential candidates, said the report has led them to conclude that it was time to impeach the president.
Party leaders and key committee chairs on Capitol Hill say instead that they want more information from all sides — Mr. Trump, Mr. Mueller and Attorney General William Barr, who is slated to testify this week.
But the top Democrats on Capitol Hill are getting aggravated by Mr. Trump’s efforts to thwart House investigations.
Mr. Trump has sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One to prevent them from handing over his financial records to the House Financial Services Committee, and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Munchin has missed two deadlines to submit the president’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee.
The Justice Department has instructed a top official not to appear in response to a subpoena for testimony about the 2020 census unless a department attorney is present, and Mr. Trump has said he is not inclined to let former White House counsel Don McGahn testify.
“Donald Trump seems to believe he is a king,” Rep. Hakeem S. Jeffries of New York, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, told reporters Tuesday. “This is not Westeros. This is Washington, D.C.”
Mr. Jeffries said Democrats are studying their legal options, including going to court, to try to enforce their demands.
Some liberal lawmakers said the president’s combative stance could fuel impeachment support.
“If the president has nothing to hide, he should not be blocking witnesses from coming before Congress. If he does obstruct folks from coming and testifying, he pushes us,” said Rep. Mark Pocan, Wisconsin Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Mr. Trump says the special counsel has investigated most of what Democrats say they are questioning and added that their persistence is a political attack on him.
Republicans say Democrats are holding hearings and forcing confrontations without acknowledging that they are angling for impeachment, but House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina said Democrats need the investigations before filing charges of impeachment.
He said leaders don’t want to get ahead of the committees but told MSNBC that impeachment is “absolutely” an option.
“It’s always on the table. We can’t take that off the table. That is the only thing that we have available to us,” he said, calling Mr. Mueller’s report a “road map” for further investigations.
Rep. Val Butler Demings, Florida Democrat, said House lawmakers already have enough evidence to impeach Mr. Trump but she fully supports leaders’ more deliberate approach.
“There are numerous cases where the president obstructed or attempted to obstruct justice. I feel very strongly that the president has worked very hard to no longer deserve to stay in office,” she said. “The leadership has to be like a good quarterback. They have to have the ability to see the entire field.”
In addition to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Omar, the others backing Ms. Tlaib’s resolution are Democratic Reps. Al Green and Filemon Vela of Texas, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Jared Huffman of California.
“I’ve been supportive of impeachment from the very beginning,” Mr. Vela told The Washington Times. “I haven’t thought much on what leadership does on the matter. Every member here has to make their own decisions.”
However, he said he doubts that many of his colleagues will sign onto the impeachment resolution despite the fervor.
“I frankly think it’s going to be more difficult,” he said. “It’s just my general sense of things.”
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