United States House Democrats’ views vary on how to proceed after last week’s release of a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia probe, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday.
In a letter to fellow Democratic politicians, Pelosi said it was “important to know that the facts regarding holding the president accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings.” She added that President Donald Trump engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behaviour “whether currently indictable or not”.
Top congressional Democrats have left the door open to pursuing the impeachment of Trump, a Republican, but have also said they would first need to complete their own probe into whether he obstructed justice in Mueller’s investigation.
“While our views range from proceeding to investigate the findings of the Mueller report or proceeding directly to impeachment, we all firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth,” Pelosi said in her letter.
“As we proceed to uncover the truth and present additional needed reforms to protect our democracy, we must show the American people we are proceeding free from passion or prejudice, strictly on the presentation of fact,” she wrote.
House Democrats will discuss their next steps in a conference call later on Monday.
Trump told reporters on Monday that he is “not even a little bit” worried about impeachment.
Earlier in the day, he tweeted that “only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment”.
He added, “There were no crimes by me (No Collusion, No Obstruction), so you can’t impeach. It was the Democrats that committed the crimes, not your Republican President!”
But Trump’s many tweets seeking to undermine the report’s credibility in the days of its release – even calling it “bulls***” – indicate he is hardly shrugging the report aside.
Mueller’s report last week confirmed that Russian operatives had attempted to interfere in the 2016 election to help Trump beat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, including by hacking into email accounts.
The report also found that Trump’s campaign took advantage of the effects on Clinton, but did not deliberately reach out to collude with the Russians.
The redacted version of Mueller’s report outlined multiple instances where Trump tried to thwart the probe. While it stopped short of concluding Trump had committed a crime, it did not exonerate him. Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, subsequently decided that Trump had not.
Mueller also noted that Congress has the power to address whether Trump violated the law.
Democrats, who control the lower house of Congress, have so far mostly held off on calling for impeachment proceedings.
But Democratic leaders are under pressure from some of the party’s rising stars and some 2020 presidential contenders to begin impeachment proceedings, including from Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Julian Castro, a former Housing and Urban Development secretary.
Other Democratic candidates, including Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, have suggested it is too soon to initiate impeachment proceedings.
The issue has split the party since the day the new Congress was sworn in.
That January night, freshman Rashida Tlaib, was recorded using profanity to tell supporters the Democrats were going to impeach Trump.
After Mueller’s report was released, the most prominent of the Democratic freshmen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, signed on to Tlaib’s resolution calling for an investigation into Trump’s conduct and the question of whether it merits a formal charge in the House.
“Mueller’s report is clear in pointing to Congress’ responsibility in investigating obstruction of justice by the President,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, whose panel would spearhead any impeachment proceedings, said on Sunday that Democrats would press ahead with investigations of Trump in Congress and “see where the facts lead us”.