WASHINGTON (AP) — Brushing back calls for impeachment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday “it’s not even close” to having enough support in the House, while Democrats pushed forward on other fronts to investigate President Donald Trump.
The House voted 229-191 to approve a resolution that will allow Democrats to accelerate their legal battles with the Trump administration over access to information from the Russia investigation.
At the same time, they’re convening hearings this week on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, in an effort to boost public interest in the findings of the Trump-Russia probe while digging into a legal strategy aimed at forcing the administration into compliance with congressional oversight.
“We need answers to the questions left unanswered by the Mueller report,” Pelosi said on the House floor ahead of voting.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy countered that the Democratic maneuvers are all “just a desperate attempt to relitigate the Mueller investigation.” He called it “an impeachment effort in everything but name.”
Earlier in the day, Pelosi all but ignored questions about impeachment during a policy conference, saying the Democrats’ strategy is “legislating, investigating, litigating” — in that order.
Pressed about Trump, she said: “I’m done with him. I don’t even want to talk about him.”
The House’s far-reaching resolution approved Tuesday empowers committee chairs to sue top Trump administration officials — Attorney General William Barr, former White House counsel Don McGahn and others — to force compliance with congressional subpoenas, including those for Mueller’s full report and his underlying evidence. They now no longer need a vote of the full House.
The Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, urged his colleagues to support the legislation “so we can get into court and break the stonewall without delay.”
It’s unclear how quickly Democrats will go to court. House leaders have signaled they will hold off on suing Barr after the committee struck a deal with the Justice Department to receive some underlying materials from Mueller’s report. Nadler said the department will provide some of Mueller’s “most important files” and all members of the committee will be able to view them.
Rep. Hakeem Jefferies, D-N.Y., a member of the leadership team, said if the Justice Department continues to cooperate, “I expect we will not race to the courthouse.”
A court case could come more quickly for McGahn, who at the behest of the White House has defied subpoenas for documents and his testimony.
McGahn is in “a particularly vulnerable situation” since he is no longer a government employee, Jeffries said. “He should begin to cooperate immediately or face the consequences.”
Rep. David Ciccilline, D-R.I., also a member of the leadership team, said the deal with the Justice Department was “an important breakthrough.”
“The American people have a right to know the truth and we have a responsibility to follow the facts where they take us,” he said.
It’s not clear if that will be enough, though, for the dozens of House Democrats who say it’s beyond time to start impeachment proceedings.
Pelosi has resisted those efforts so far, preferring to build the case in the courts, and in the court of public opinion.
The No. 2 Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, downplayed the tensions, saying Tuesday he doesn’t get the impression the caucus is “embroiled by this issue and divided by this issue. We have differences of opinion, but I don’t think that we are divided.”
The ramped-up actions this week are intended to mollify some of the impatient members, while also seeking to deepen the public’s understanding of Mueller’s findings.
Mueller wrote in his 448-page report released last month that there was not enough evidence to establish that there was a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, but he also said he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice. The report examined several episodes in which Trump attempted to influence or curtail Mueller’s investigation.
On Monday, the Judiciary panel heard testimony from John Dean, a White House counsel under Richard Nixon who helped bring down his presidency. Dean testified that Mueller has provided Congress with a “road map” for investigating Trump.
The focus on Mueller will continue Wednesday, when the House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to review the counterintelligence implications of Russia’s election interference, as detailed in Mueller’s report. The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Also Wednesday, the Oversight Committee will consider new contempt citations against Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over the administration’s pursuit of citizenship questions on the U.S. Census.
Republicans have criticized the hearings as a waste of time and have called for Democrats to move on.
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