Following a day of intense testimony from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill, the end result seems to be that President Trump faces less chance of impeachment than he did even 48 hours ago, which was already quite a distant option for Democrats. Some analysts were speculating that depending on what Mueller said, the issue could be ratcheted up for House Democrats, already working to float impeachment proceedings for obstruction of justice. In the end, however, the testimony largely revealed that Robert Mueller himself seemed to know less about the contents of his report than the Congressmen, journalists, and the general public.

The New York Times called the episode “disappointing” for Democrats if they were hoping for greater bombshells or answers which strayed outside the lines of the report:

By the time he finished nearly seven hours later, Democrats were disappointed they did not get the made-for-TV accusatory moment they wanted, and the prospect for impeachment appeared far more difficult. Although the president’s critics vowed to persist, a gleeful Mr. Trump claimed he was completely cleared while shouting angry insults at reporters on the South Lawn.

“Much as I hate to say it, this morning’s hearing was a disaster,” Laurence Tribe, the Harvard law professor who has argued that the House should pursue impeachment, wrote on Twitter. “Far from breathing life into his damning report, the tired Robert Mueller sucked the life out of it. The effort to save democracy and the rule of law from this lawless president has been set back, not advanced.”

It’s quite surprising from the standpoint of an outside political observer that Democrats felt they had something big about to be revealed. Mueller had already stated at his press conference months ago when talking about the report that any testimony would be a waste of time since his answers would not extend outside the bounds of the written report.

Nevertheless, it was important to get him on the record for both sides to at least query him on particular parts of the report that were either vague or needed more explanation.

Democrats huddle on impeachment strategy

At this point, with the 2020 presidential election looming, the prospects of impeachment seem entirely unlikely if not outright ridiculous, especially considering an impeachment bill came to the House floor last week yet was voted down, even by most Democrats.

However, CNN is reporting that House Democrats have hunkered down to discuss the matter and decide how to move forward and determine whether impeachment against President Trump is viable in any form:

In a closed door meeting Wednesday evening, one House Democrat after another pressed the leadership about impeachment proceedings and asking for clarity on the process for moving forward with a formal inquiry, according to multiple attendees.

Although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continued to indicate that it’s still not time to begin that inquiry, she and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler did welcome a more detailed discussion among House Democrats eager to know the game plan over impeachment now that Mueller is done with his testimony.

Nadler indicated that one possibility was to have the six congressional committees that are investigating Trump to formally draft articles of impeachment against the President, according to sources with knowledge of the discussion. One of the sources cautioned, however, that it was an idea he floated but not one that is currently underway.

Nadler was also asked about the process of beginning an impeachment inquiry — and he indicated that impeachment proceedings could begin without a vote of the full House, according to two sources.

One of those sources tells CNN some members read that to mean that once the Democrats’ lawsuits to get more information from the Trump administration are exhausted, the House Judiciary Committee could begin the process without members having to take what — for some — could be a tough vote to start an impeachment process.

With Mueller’s lackluster testimony not offering Democrss anything concrete to move on, the impeachment train has probably come to its final stop. Democrats will continue investigating, perhaps reaching into more places, such as the President’s state tax returns from New York, but anything related to the investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign seems to be a dead-end in the legal sense.

How are the 2020 candidates responding?

Not every 2020 Democratic candidate spent time to address the Mueller testimony, likely for the reasons outlined above. Most of the candidates spent their Wednesday at the NAACP convention in Detroit, Michigan, and preferred to stay on message pushing their various campaign issues.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren continued to push for impeachment calling the Mueller report an “impeachment referral”:

Former vice president Joe Biden was asked about Mueller’s testimony but deferred on impeachment and also deferred on the possibility of Trump being prosecuted after he leaves office:

Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted, and then deleted, the following comment:

“I’ll say it again: Robert Mueller basically returned an impeachment referral in his report. Congress must hold this president accountable. The House must begin impeachment proceedings.”

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke called for impeachment proceedings saying that Mueller’s testimony reiterated O’Rourke’s belief that Trump is unfit for office:

Voters still in charge of Trump’s fate

Unless something else comes out of the numerous investigations being led by House Democrats, the prospect of President Trump being removed from office by Congress has been as dead as it ever was. The end result is that voters in 2020 will be the deciding factor as to whether the President deserves a second term, or whether the eventual Democratic nominee can make a convincingly better argument for changing course and putting someone else in charge.

There may be a question or two about Mueller’s testimony at the Democratic debate next week, but it appears the candidates would rather move on and talk about something else entirely.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Democrats squandered their opportunity. They got into complicated things and most of Mueller’s answers were relatively long and repetitive. To save their time and to have more impact, they should have stuck to clear, yes-no questions.

    If Dems were smart, they would have said, “Mr. Mueller, we’re asking you here to clarify your report, not to go beyond it.” Then, they should have cherry-picked points from the report, and for each point, they should have quoted it and said, “does that mean–?”–interpreting it from the legalese to language that would have impact.

    Also, instead of sticking to their scripts, they should have referred to Republican objections and said, “you were asked –, doesn’t that really mean–?” Or, “our Republican colleague cut you off while you were answering. You began to say –, would you complete your thought, please?”

    It’s possible that Dems thought when the public saw Mueller, they would realize how professional and serious he is. What they didn’t count on is that he would appear to be indecisive–because he wanted to be careful that the exact point was not disturbed.

    • I figured you would be disappointed. I figured you’d make excuses for Mueller and the Dems.

      Tell me were the Dems tough on Kavanaugh? Was Kavanaugh professional and serious?

      I heard that some liberals were upset that the Republicans were tough on Mueller. I wonder if the same liberal talking heads were concerned that the Dems were overly tough on Kavanaugh?

      • I didn’t say I was disappointed. Mueller’s job was to answer questions, and he did just what he should have. I was just saying Dems screwed up by looking partisan, instead of just asking what certain passages mean. I was talking about process.

        It’s always the opposition’s job to ask tough questions.

  2. Robert Mueller’s Testimony Leaves Congress In Charge To Execute It’s Sworn Duty To Uphold The US Constitution And Rule Of Law By Starting An Impeachment Inquiry. FTFY

      • Yes. Impeachment makes little sense. The election is only a little more than a year away.

        It would present an interesting Constitutional situation. If, somehow, the Senate removed Trump, Pence would become president, but it would still be up to the party as to whether to have him take the top spot. Likely, yes.

        The precedent would be the George McGovern campaign of 1972, when Thomas Eagleton was replaced by Sergeant Shriver. In this case, the GOP could choose someone new, or move Pence to the top of the ticket, and choose another VP candidate. But this is a pipe dream.

        While Dems would love to have impeachment hearings in the middle of the general campaign, it would be counterproductive. When the hearings for Nixon’s impeachment were in progress, we kept hearing more and more new information. It’s unlikely, at this point, that we’ll hear anything new of substance against Trump.

        • Were you listening when House Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler, pointedly ask Mueller “Did you actually totally exonerate the president?” And did you hear Mueller’s one word response “No”.

  3. Great article.

    You mentioned CNN. I used to follow CNN. I trusted them. Now I’m very suspicious as to the validity of their reporting.

  4. After Robert Mueller’s stumbling and bumbling performance you can pretty well put a fork in the Democrats, their goose is cooked.?

    • Mueller didn’t stumble. He was just working to be precise and fair. If he had been anti-Trump, he would have been firm and assertive and gone beyond the questions asked.

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