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Dem. Presidential Contenders Urge Impeachment after Mueller Press Conference

Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) speaks in Newark, N.J., February 1, 2019. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

A host of Democratic presidential candidates have strengthened their calls for impeachment in response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s reiteration of his investigative findings in a Wednesday press conference.

In his first public comments since his appointment, Mueller emphasized the role of Congress in addressing the actions outlined in his report, citing the long-standing Department of Justice guideline that precludes the indictment of a sitting president.

“The opinion [in the report] says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal-justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,” he said.

In response, a number of Democratic presidential contenders renewed their calls for an impeachment inquiry and cast Mueller’s comments as a de facto endorsement of that course of action.

Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) on Wednesday said Mueller’s press conference was “essentially” a public impeachment referral intended to motivate lawmakers who have not yet made up their minds on the issue.

“I think it’s a fair inference from what we heard in that press conference, that Bob Mueller was essentially referring impeachment to the United States Congress,” Harris told reporters in South Carolina shortly after Mueller made his first public remarks since being appointed more than two years ago. “I believe a fair inference from what he heard from Bob Mueller is there would have been indictments returned against this president [if not for that Office of Legal Counsel guideline].”

Democratic senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York similarly stressed the OLC limitations placed on Mueller in calling on members of the House to hold the president accountable by opening an impeachment inquiry.

Former vice president Joe Biden, the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination, was more circumspect in his response to Mueller’s comments, endorsing House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to forego impeachment proceedings while the multiple ongoing Congressional investigations into the president run their course.

“Congress must do everything in its power to hold this Administration to account,” the Biden campaign said in a statement. “That is what Congress is doing and should do: continue to investigate.”

Despite the rising tide of impeachment calls from her party’s most prominent presidential contenders, Pelosi on Wednesday continued to urge her caucus to stay the course.

“The Congress holds sacred its constitutional responsibility to investigate and hold the President accountable for his abuse of power,” she said in a statement. “The Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy. The American people must have the truth.”

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