House Democrats on Friday announced the launch of an “impeachment investigation” following former special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony on the Trump-Russia investigation.
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to go to court Friday in an effort to obtain secret grand jury material underlying Mueller’s report.
“We are telling the court that what we are doing is not just part of normal oversight but part of our Article 1 authority and responsibility to consider all remedies, including the possibility of articles of impeachment,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said in a press conference.
The Judiciary Committee is also expected to go to court next week to try to enforce a subpoena against former White House counsel Donald McGahn, a key Mueller witness. That suit is expected to challenge the White House’s claim that former White House employees have “absolute immunity” from testifying before Congress.
“This is an impeachment investigation,” declared Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA). “We are suggesting here is the first time we are telegraphing to the court that one remedy we have is impeachment.”
The court battles are beginning as the House leaves for a six-week recess and Democrats are debating whether to impeach the president. More than 90 House Democrats have said they favor starting the impeachment process, yet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said she wants to build the strongest case possible before making that decision.
In a press conference Friday, Pelosi balked at the idea that she’s trying to slow-walk impeachment.
“No, I’m not trying to run out the clock,” the speaker told reporters. “We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed — not one day sooner.”
“Everybody has the liberty and the luxury to espouse their own position and to criticize me for trying to go down the path in the most determined, positive way,” she added. “Again, their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage.”
Despite many Democrats’ wishes to kick off an impeachment injury, political observers say Mueller’s doddering testimony may have fizzled the effort.
“Mueller’s lackluster testimony likely gave Speaker Pelosi the ammunition to withstand calls for impeachment inquiries, or hearings, from the left flank of her party,” said Brown University professor Wendy Schiller. “She has always maintained it is a losing political proposition even if the House voted to impeach Trump because the Senate will not vote to convict Trump and remove him from office.”
“I think the candidates on the stump are being politically realistic; the people back in Washington aren’t. Nancy Pelosi, who is a wintry eyed realist, is having none of it: she thinks impeachment is a fools’ errand and I have to say I agree with her,” said William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The House Judiciary panel’s announcement comes one week after House voted 332-95 to table a resolution calling for impeachment brought by Rep. Al Green. (D-TX).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.