Calls for Democrats to ramp up impeachment proceedings grew louder Wednesday after special counsel Robert Mueller said he couldn’t clear President Trump of crimes.
Rep. David Cicilline, chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, said the House Judiciary Committee must formally open an “impeachment inquiry” into the president.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, didn’t go that far, but said he saw in Mr. Mueller’s statement an invitation to Congress to act.
“He did not exonerate the president of the United States of obstruction of justice, obstruction of justice is a serious crime that strikes at the core of our justice system, and the Constitution points to Congress to take action to hold the president accountable,” said Mr. Nadler, New York Democrat.
Mr. Nadler would be the person leading any impeachment, and he said what Mr. Mueller laid out confirms the president did commit “crimes,” which Congress has a duty to punish.
“Given that special counsel Mueller was unable to pursue criminal charges against the president, it falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump — and we will do so,” the congressman said.
The comments came after Mr. Mueller, in a surprise statement at the Justice Department’s headquarters, said he did not reach a decision on charging Mr. Trump with obstruction of justice because department policy prohibits bringing charges against a sitting chief executive.
Mr. Mueller did say, however, that he could not exonerate the president.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mr. Mueller said. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter that Mr. Mueller’s statement could be boiled down to one word: “impeach.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez had already been one of the louder voices agitating for a start to impeachment proceedings.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been skeptical of impeachment, did not embrace the growing chorus from within Democrats’ ranks.
Instead she urged Congress to continue its normal investigations, and to approve legislation to overhaul American elections and campaigns, making it easier to vote and tougher to weed out fraudulent voters from the rolls; imposing stricter limits on campaign spending and creating a voluntary public financing system; and promoting more cyber defenses against election interference.
“The Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy. The American people must have the truth,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
Key Republicans, though, said Mr. Mueller’s statement Wednesday was no different than what he’d said in his original 448-page report, and which led Attorney General William P. Barr to declare the matter over.
“As Mr. Mueller said today, the report speaks for itself. The report shows that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and any member or operative of the Russian government,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He said Mr. Mueller had a chance to declare Mr. Trump obstructed justice but didn’t do so, instead leaving that decision to Mr. Barr, who cleared the president.
“Without an underlying offense or collusion, and the overwhelming cooperation by the Trump White House with the Mueller investigation, the attorney general’s decision on obstruction is sound. It will be the final word in my view,” Mr. Graham said.