On Wednesday morning, Robert Mueller spoke publicly for the first time since he was appointed to lead the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the relationship between the Trump campaign and the foreign adversary. Mueller took the opportunity to resign from the Justice Department, and also to explain both that his team did not have “confidence that the president did not commit a crime,” and that because of the DOJ’s policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted, “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”
Though Mueller revealed little that hadn’t already been made apparent in his report, a redacted version of which was released to the public last month, many felt the comments underscored the argument that the report was essentially an impeachment referral. Senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker took the occasion to call for impeachment for the first time.
Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear: Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) May 29, 2019
“I’ve been asking for Mueller’s testimony — today he made his views clear,” Booker added. “This Administration has continued to stonewall Congress’s oversight. Beginning impeachment proceedings is the only path forward.”
As recently as late April, Booker said that more investigation was needed before impeachment proceedings could begin, and that he didn’t think it was time to be “having that conversation.”
This is as close to an impeachment referral as it gets. Robert Mueller could not clear the president, nor could he charge him — so he has handed the matter to Congress, which alone can act to deliver due process and accountability.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) May 29, 2019
It's time for Congress to begin impeachment hearings and follow the facts. Robert Mueller clearly expects Congress to exercise its constitutional authority and take steps that he could not. We can't let the president defy basic accountability measures built into our Constitution.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) May 29, 2019
Several other candidates used Mueller’s statement to reiterate previous calls for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings. “There must be consequences, accountability, and justice,” Beto O’Rourke wrote on Twitter. “The only way to ensure that is to begin impeachment proceedings.”
As Mueller reiterates there were "multiple, systemic efforts to interfere in our election," Trump calls it a hoax. He invited these attacks, obstructed the investigation into them & told Putin there will be no consequences for launching a concerted attack on our political system.
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) May 29, 2019
O’Rourke called for the president to be impeached for the first time last week during a town hall event hosted by CNN. “If we do nothing because we are afraid of the polls or the politics, or the repercussions in the next election, we will set a precedent that, in fact, some people, because of the position of power and public trust that they hold, are above the law,” he said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the first presidential candidate to call for impeachment in the wake of the release of the Mueller report, reiterated her previous claims. “Mueller’s statement makes clear what those who have read his report know: It is an impeachment referral, and it’s up to Congress to act,” she wrote. “They should.”
Mueller leaves no doubt:
1) He didn't exonerate the president because there is evidence he committed crimes.
2) Justice Department policy prevented him from charging the president with any crimes.
3) The Constitution leaves it up to Congress to act—and that's impeachment.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 29, 2019
Julián Castro, who was the first to candidate to call for impeachment, said again that “Congress should begin an impeachment inquiry.”
Mueller made clear this morning that his investigation now lays at the feet of Congress. No one is above the law—Congress should begin an impeachment inquiry.
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) May 29, 2019
So did Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). “We need to start impeachment proceedings,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s our constitutional obligation.”
What Robert Mueller basically did was return an impeachment referral. Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable.
We need to start impeachment proceedings. It's our constitutional obligation.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) May 29, 2019
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he is preparing for impeachment proceedings to begin. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) called for them to begin “tomorrow.”
Mueller did his job. Now it’s time to do ours.
Impeachment hearings should begin tomorrow. https://t.co/9za3s0pqOA
— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) May 29, 2019
Though calls for impeachment continue to grow louder, the person who will ultimately dictate whether proceedings begin is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has so far been bullish on the prospect, arguing that it would distract from Democrats’ agenda in 2020. Shortly after Mueller concluded his statement on Wednesday, Pelosi released a lengthy statement, writing that “Congress holds sacred its constitutional responsibility to investigate and hold the President accountable for his abuse of power,” and that “Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy.”
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) May 29, 2019
“Many constituents want to impeach the president, but we want to do what is right and we want to get results,” the House speaker added later while speaking at the Commonwealth Club.