Democrats said that former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to Congress on Wednesday didn’t move the needle on impeaching President Trump, dashing the hopes of those who had figured the testimony would be a watershed moment.
Instead, as they prepare for a six-week summer vacation, Democrats vowed Thursday to spend their time back home talking less about investigations and more about legislation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the next month will be about increasing pressure on senators to vote on a variety of bills, including a higher minimum wage and an overhaul of campaigns and elections.
“We will own August and make it too hot to handle for the Senate not to take up our bills,” she said.
Rep. Mark Pocan, a vocal advocate for starting an impeachment inquiry, said this week that the Democrats’ agenda is getting drowned out.
“Unfortunately, I think with all the talk about impeachment and all these other outside issues took away from things we’ve actually passed,” the Wisconsin Democrat said.
Mr. Mueller’s stumbles during his six hours of testimony about his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and his refusal to answer some 200 questions deprived Democrats of what they wanted — a TV-ready summation of the 448-page special counsel’s report.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who backs starting an impeachment inquiry, said she was pleased to see the summation of the report Mr. Mueller delivered, but said it didn’t make impeachment more viable.
“I support that, but not because I think that’s the way we’re gonna get rid of the president of the United States. It’s the election in 2020 that’s ultimately going to get rid of him,” the Illinois Democrat said.
Many expected Mr. Mueller’s testimony to clear the way for more Democrats to back an impeachment inquiry, joining about 90 who are already in favor. But only a couple more publicly announced their backing after Wednesday’s hearing.
House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairwoman Katherine Clark was one, becoming the highest member of Democratic leadership to support starting the process.
“Throughout his life and presidency Donald Trump has proven himself unfit to serve,” she said in a statement.
Rep. David Cicilline, the party’s messaging chairman, is the only other member of leadership who has called for an inquiry. Another new impeachment backer is Rep. Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, who said Mr. Mueller’s testimony highlighted Mr. Trump’s obstruction of justice.
But Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, who also is now supporting the effort, said Mr. Mueller’s testimony wasn’t persuasive.
“He said he wouldn’t go beyond the report, and he didn’t even know his report very well,” Mr. DeFazio told The Washington Times.
Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a vocal supporter of impeachment, agreed that Mr. Mueller’s testimony was touch-and-go, but said it helped create a “very powerful Article One record of the president’s misconduct.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler reportedly pushed to start an impeachment inquiry in a closed-door meeting Wednesday after Mr. Mueller’s testimony, but party leaders rejected the move.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters he didn’t see much difference between lawmakers’ current myriad investigations and an official impeachment inquiry.
Mrs. Pelosi said Wednesday that the next step in those investigations will be to go to court to get access to grand jury materials used in Mr. Mueller’s report and to obtain testimony from former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
Mr. Raskin said he hoped to have the grand jury material and Mr. McGahn’s testimony settled by the time lawmakers return from their August recess.
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a more moderate member from New Jersey, said the party needs to come to a decision on impeachment soon. He said he would prefer they drop the push, saying Democrats need to show results in getting their agenda signed into law.
“If we just let this overshadow all these other issues for a longer period of time, we are really endangering the election for the Democrats,” he said.