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WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday that "nothing is off the table" for Democrats investigating President Donald Trump, as the number of lawmakers in her party calling for impeachment surged in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller's remarks.
Speaking at an event with the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco a few hours after Mueller delivered his first public statement about his two-year investigation, Pelosi said that Democrats had scored several legal victories last week that will help Democrats move toward advancing the facts.
"Where they will lead us, we shall see. Nothing is off the table," she said.
Last week, Pelosi held an emergency meeting with House Democrats behind closed doors to discuss Trump oversight efforts, as calls for an impeachment inquiry intensified among rank and file members — many of whom, the moderator pointed out Wednesday, are currently willing to go further than the speaker on that front. "Many constituents want to impeach the president, but we want to do what is right and what gets results," responded Pelosi.
Pelosi reiterated that it took "months and months" of researching impeachment during the 1970s before the the House even considered pursuing that path, and noting that Democrats controlled the House and Senate at the time.
"We have a different scenario," she said. "The case has to be very compelling to the American people."
Her comments echoed those of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., following Mueller's remarks. "With respect to [the] impeachment question, at this point, all options are on the table and nothing should be ruled out," Nadler said on Wednesday, when asked about his current stance on that process.
In an earlier statement following the special counsel's comments, Nadler said it now "falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump," and that the Constitution “points to Congress to take action to hold the President accountable.”
“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. No one, not even the President of the United States, is above the law," he added.
Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday that "[d]espite Department of Justice policy to the contrary, no one is above the law – not even the President."
"The Congress holds sacred its constitutional responsibility to investigate and hold the President accountable for his abuse of power," she added. “The Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy. The American people must have the truth."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement that Mueller’s statement "also makes clear that Congress has a right—we believe an obligation—to continue our constitutionally mandated oversight without interference or stonewalling and follow the facts wherever they may lead.”
Schumer did not mention impeachment. Nadler, who did not mention impeachment in his initial statement, chairs a committee that has the power to initiate an impeachment inquiry, which a number of his Democratic colleagues are now demanding.
Many of those lawmakers said that Mueller’s statement Wednesday validated their position to begin an inquiry, in the wake of recent moves by the White House to block multiple congressional subpoenas issued by Democratic chairmen for testimony and documents.
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., who before Wednesday hadn't called for an impeachment inquiry, went even further than many of her colleagues and said the House should already file articles of impeachment.
"It is very clear that President Trump is engaging in a cover-up, obstructing of justice, and betraying his oath of office. I fully expect the responsible House committees to expedite their investigations and, as soon as possible, formally draft articles of impeachment," she said in a statement.
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., a member of the Judiciary panel and of Democratic leadership, tweeted that with Mueller’s work done, “it is time for Congress to do its job.” Cicilline was among three key Democrats who pressed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., last week to launch an impeachment inquiry.
According to an NBC News review, more than 40 House Democrats back initiating an impeachment inquiry, as does Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., the lone Republican in Congress in favor of taking that action.
Following Mueller’s remarks, Amash tweeted, “The ball is in our court, Congress.” He first voiced support for an impeachment inquiry over a week ago in a series of tweets, and he stood by his position at a town hall back home in his district in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Tuesday.
Another pro-impeachment inquiry Democrat, Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, tweeted that Mueller made it clear Wednesday that his investigation didn’t exonerate Trump and “directly contradicts Attorney General William Barr’s public statements."
And Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., who told reporters last week that he favored Pelosi's strategy of not jumping to impeachment, said in a Wednesday statement that he had changed his mind, and that Mueller had made clear that any "remedy" for a president who has committed crimes is in the hands of Congress.
"Mr. Mueller’s statement that his office could have exonerated Donald Trump but did not is nothing short of an alarm bell above the door of our republic," Pascrell said.
"In addition to continuing our other investigations into rampant corruption throughout this government, Congress must proceed with an Article I inquiry of whether Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice," he added. "If, from our own inquiry, we find he did obstruct justice or committed other high crimes, then we will have no other avenue but impeachment of this President.”
Many Democratic lawmakers on Twitter pointed to one Mueller remark in particular: "If we had had confidence that the president had clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime."
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who has suggested that Democrats may have no choice but to start impeachment proceedings against Trump, tweeted Wednesday that Mueller’s statement, “confirms both the evidence of obstruction by the president and the critical role of Congress under the Constitution going forward.”
And Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., joined the bandwagon of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday to call on the House to start an impeachment inquiry.
Most Republicans who reacted quickly to the special counsel's statement stuck to their previous stance that the case is closed on the Russia investigation.
“Today’s statement by Mr. Mueller reinforces the findings of his report," tweeted Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., "And as for me, the case is over. Mr. Mueller has decided to move on and let the report speak for itself. Congress should follow his lead.”
Former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, tweeted, “9 minute and 39 second press conference. Same conclusions. No new information. Time to move on.”
And Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., another frequent defender of Trump, criticized Mueller's appearance. “If @realDonaldTrump doesn’t take a question for a few weeks, the media claims democracy is on life support. Robert #Mueller took 22 months to do the investigation. Followed by a 9 minute drive-by obstruction allegation. And then does not take a SINGLE QUESTION.”
Mueller indicated Wednesday that he had made the decision himself that he did not want to testify on Capitol Hill — or to offer further public comment on the probe. “I hope and expect that this is the only time that I will speak to you in this manner,” he said. “...The work speaks for itself. The report is my testimony.”
His remarks on Wednesday came amid a week-long congressional recess, with lawmakers set to return to Washington next week.