WASHINGTON ― A day after the Department of Justice released a four-page summary of the Mueller report and suggested no further indictments, lawmakers on Capitol Hill appeared as firm in their earlier beliefs as ever. Democrats are saying more investigation is needed to determine whether President Donald Trump has broken any laws, and Republicans are saying, as they have all along, that Trump is innocent of all crimes ― whatever they may be.
Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told reporters Monday he and five other Democratic chairmen were giving the Department of Justice a week to turn over the Mueller report to Congress before lawmakers vote to subpoena the document. But Nadler has been very clear he has concerns that Attorney General William Barr ― a Trump appointee ― was the one who ultimately decided there would be no indictments.
“Special Counsel Mueller worked for 22 months to determine the extent to which President Trump obstructed justice. Attorney General Barr took 2 days to tell the American people that while the President is not exonerated, there will be no action by DOJ,” Nadler tweeted Sunday, repeatedly refusing to answer more questions about his concerns with Barr on Monday.
Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) ― long the face of Democratic efforts to get to the bottom of Trump’s potential collusion with Russia ― told HuffPost Monday night that he’s said all along Democrats shouldn’t be “taking the bait” on impeachment and should wait until they see what Mueller produces.
“And I think that’s still the right answer,” Schiff said. “We have yet to see the Mueller report. Certainly, from Barr’s summary, the most alarming part of the report will be the evidence of obstruction of justice.”
“What I find most disturbing about Barr’s actions is that he applied for the job by writing a lengthy and flawed legal memo about how the obstruction investigation was misguided. And he was hired for that purpose,” he added.
Schiff argued that Barr should have committed to recusing himself during his confirmation or should never have been confirmed. “But having been confirmed, he did exactly what he was hired for ― and that is attempting to exonerate the president when Mueller found no reason for exoneration,” he said.
Republicans have begun calling on Schiff to resign in light of the Mueller findings and Schiff’s repeated claims that there was evidence the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, but Democrats have defended Schiff from what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed as “ridiculous attacks.”
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) were quick Sunday to issue a joint statement in which they say Barr’s letter “raises as many questions as it answers.”
“The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay,” Pelosi and Schumer said.
Those immediate appeals set the tone of the Democratic response, wherein Democrats demand to see the report before drawing any further conclusions and attack Barr as a compromised party.
But in general, Democrats don’t seem to be moving much from their earlier calls for investigation, or, in some cases, impeachment.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who’s said for well over a year that he would happily vote to impeach Trump, told HuffPost he didn’t trust the letter from Barr.
“We have just been bamboozled by a 24-hour narrative totally dictated and controlled by Team Trump,” Huffman said. “One hundred percent of the information we have comes from Attorney General Barr and the White House. We haven’t seen anything except a partial few sentences that were carefully excerpted by the attorney general, and I don’t trust it. It doesn’t smell right.”
He said he didn’t know how to square the “no collusion mantra” with the fact that Mueller has said in pleadings that Roger Stone was directed by a senior member of the Trump administration to reach out to WikiLeaks about Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails. “And you certainly can’t square Mueller presenting the possibility of criminal obstruction if there wasn’t a whole lot of evidence to support that,” Huffman said.
He added that it was lawmakers’ “sacred duty” to see the report and determine the truth.
We have just been bamboozled by a 24-hour narrative totally dictated and controlled by Team Trump. One hundred percent of the information we have comes from Attorney General Barr and the White House.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.)
But some Democrats who have called for impeachment did seem to be taking a step back ― at least temporarily.
Asked whether she was stepping back from her calls for impeachment, Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said Democrats needed to focus on getting the Mueller report.
“We do nothing now but concentrate on getting the information, getting that report,” she said. “The public wants it. They’ve been waiting 22 months for it. We’ve been waiting. And it’s so important that the public understands what work has gone into it, what was considered, what was not considered, and why maybe certain indictments were not made.”
Waters said there was more information Congress needed on the Trump investigation, “and that’s where we’re going to focus right now.”
And Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who’s also toyed with impeaching Trump ― particularly after his remarks that there was “blame on both sides” for the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia ― seemed to be taking a small step back, saying he was “very content right now, at least for a short period of time,” in waiting to get the report and then determining the next steps.
Democrats and Republicans are mostly in agreement that Congress should be able to see at least some form of the Mueller report. The House voted unanimously in support of releasing some form of the Mueller report, and Trump ally Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told HuffPost on Monday that he’s always wanted to see the report, “within the confines of the law.”
Despite Barr’s suggestion of evidence of obstruction of justice in Mueller’s report, this was a moment of vindication for the president, Meadows said.
“I’ve been saying for two years ‘no collusion,’” he said.
Just as Democrats didn’t seem to be changing their minds on impeachment or whether there are still more investigations for Congress to conduct into the president’s campaign and potential collusion with Russia, Republicans were unmoved by news that the report evidently lays out evidence of obstruction of justice.
“I don’t believe there was any obstruction of justice, and again, I believe, had there been a strong case for obstruction of justice, Mueller would have concluded that in his report,” Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) told HuffPost on Monday.
Pressed that Mueller apparently did present evidence of obstruction of justice and that it was Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who determined there wasn’t enough evidence to indict the president, Comer said that was just “a way out” for Mueller to avoid concluding there was no obstruction of justice.
“Mueller would have included obstruction of justice in his report, had he had solid evidence that there was obstruction of justice,” Comer said.