Democrats don’t see momentum for impeachment right now
WASHINGTON — Robert Mueller’s testimony is unlikely to reverse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance to launch immediate impeachment proceedings against President Trump, instead lending momentum towards calls for more congressional investigations, Democratic lawmakers and top aides told NBC News.
“He was clear about the things that counted, that he did not exonerate the president, that there were multiple instances of obstruction of justice” Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Penn., told NBC News. "We absolutely have to” call in more witnesses, she said.
“I think it’s a very important first day,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Penn, said. “Some people are saying this is the last day. This is the beginning.”
Senior Democratic Intelligence Committee officials who briefed reporters after their hearing said Mueller’s articulation of national security risks that can come from foreign contacts, among other issues, "raises a lot more questions” to pursue.
In a press conference after the hearings, Pelosi was asked by NBC News whether her views had changed on impeachment. "My position has always been whatever decision we made in that regard would have to be done with our strongest possible hand, and we still have some outstanding matters in the courts," she said. "It's about the Congress, the Constitution, and the courts. And we are fighting the president in the courts."
Pelosi told Democrats in a closed-door meeting Wednesday evening that the president has engaged in wrongdoing.
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said that Pelosi told members that they can come out for impeachment if that’s what they thought was right based on the testimony. “She was more clear today about” telling members to support impeachment if they want than she has been in the last, Demings said.
Still, Democrats close to the speaker cautioned that the proceedings are unlikely to change her go-slow approach.
Robert Raben, an assistant attorney general under Bill Clinton who is close to Pelosi’s office and has been advising House and Senate Judiciary members, said “if someone was hoping that this would be the surge toward a tipping point, that wasn’t the case.”
“The ground did not shift (on impeachment),” Raben told NBC. “Pelosi’s strategy of investigate, legislate and litigate will remain intact,” he said.
Three Democratic aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the hearings won't cause Pelosi to reverse course.
“The question is how many (Democratic) members come out for it and what’s the threshold that makes it uncomfortable and unsustainable for her” to resist impeachment. Prior to the hearings, there were 88 Democrats who’ve publicly called for an impeachment inquiry.
“If we get into triple digits and 45-50% it might be harder for her” to resist, the aide said.
Alex Moe contributed