Last week, the public finally learned the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation into the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia and its efforts to obstruct the investigation itself.
The details of the report were as damning as they were comprehensive, and shortly after the report became public last Thursday, Democrats in Congress began ratcheting up their calls for impeachment.
Lawmakers have been threatening to pursue articles of impeachment for years, based on President Donald Trump’s persistent and unapologetic disregard for the law. He committed his first crime in office before he even stepped off the podium at his inauguration, and in the years since, he has violated numerous federal statutes, anti-corruption laws, and longstanding protocols.
But the Mueller report provided the clearest picture yet of the criminal enterprise that is the Trump administration. Democrats in Congress have seized on the report to renew their calls for impeachment, and while party leadership has so far balked at joining them, the field of candidates running to replace Trump has been far more receptive.
Here is what the Democratic field has had to say about impeachment.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): Warren was the first major Democratic candidate to bring up impeachment after the release of the Mueller report. On Friday, one day after its release, Warren outlined on Twitter the key findings of the report, and concluded that Congress had a duty to act.
“The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty,” she wrote. “That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA): On Monday, Harris was one of several candidates asked about impeachment during a series of CNN town halls, and she took the opportunity to voice her support for congressional action.
“I think we have very good reason to believe that there is an investigation that has been conducted, which has produced evidence that tells us that this president and his administration engaged in obstruction of justice,” she told the New Hampshire audience. “I believe Congress should take the steps toward impeachment.”
Open to Impeachment
Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Reporters pressed the South Bend, Indiana, mayor on Friday about whether the House should introduce articles of impeachment, a question Buttigieg initially deflected by placing that determination on Congress, before offering that he was “pretty sure he deserves to be impeached.”
The question arose again during a CNN town hall on Monday evening, with Buttigieg no more committal on the question of impeachment. “I think he’s made it pretty clear that he deserves impeachment,” he said. “But I’m also going to leave it to the House and Senate to figure that out.”
Beto O’Rourke: The former Texas congressman is one of a handful of 2020 hopefuls whose calls for impeachment predate the Mueller report’s findings. As far back as 2017, as O’Rourke crisscrossed the state during his campaign for senate, he called for Trump to face impeachment hearings.
But more recently, O’Rourke has softened his position somewhat. In interviews, he continues to argue Trump has committed impeachable offenses, but has stopped short of calling on Congress to impeach.
“The fact that people want to see this country work again, come together, I don’t know that impeachment and those proceedings in the House and Senate is going to answer those questions for people,” he said on the campaign trail in New Hampshire last week. “We can solve this once and for all in November 2020.”
Julián Castro: The former Housing and Urban Development Secretary was asked about impeachment during a radio interview on Tuesday, and called potential hearings a “perfectly reasonable” course of action for Congress to pursue.
“What’s clear from the Mueller Report is that Bob Mueller and his team left the decision about whether to move forward on this obstruction of justice issue with Congress,” Castro said during an appearance on SiriusXM. “What I said the other day is that I was asked, ‘Well, do you think that they should move forward with an impeachment proceeding?’ And I think, yeah, that it would be perfectly reasonable for Congress to do.”
Castro and twin brother Joaquin both floated impeachment earlier this year in the wake of a Buzzfeed News article that alleged Trump instructed his former attorney and personal fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, an allegation that Cohen and Mueller’s own investigative team denied.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA): One of a handful of House members currently running for president, Swalwell has more weight than most of the field when it comes to the question of impeachment. But while he’s open to the idea — “I wouldn’t say impeachment is off the table,” he told ABC News — he isn’t ready to introduce articles of impeachment just yet.
“We’re certainly having a conversation about how we hold this president accountable,” he said on Tuesday. “Donald Trump has to be removed from office. It’s just a matter of does Congress do it or do the voters do it? I have more faith in the voters doing it.”
Opposed to Impeachment… For Now
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): The current front-runner in most polls, Sanders told a CNN town hall audience on Monday that while he supports further investigation by the House into the allegations put forth in the Mueller report, talk of impeachment would serve only as a distraction.
“If for the next year, year-and-a-half, going right into the heart of the election, all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump and ‘Trump, Trump, Trump,’ and ‘Mueller, Mueller, Mueller,’ and we’re not talking about health care, we’re not talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, we’re not talking about combating climate change, we’re not talking about sexism and racism and homophobia, and all of the issues that concern ordinary Americans, what I worry about is that works to Trump’s advantage,” he said.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): Asked about the Mueller report and possible impeachment proceedings last Friday, New York’s junior senator demurred, arguing that the public — and Congress — should hear from Mueller himself before any determinations are made about impeachment.
“I want the American people to get to hear (Mueller’s) words and hear what he says,” Gillibrand said, according to the Des Moines Register.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ): Shortly after the Mueller report was released last week and his colleague Sen. Warren called for impeachment hearings, Booker told reporters that talk of impeachment was premature.
“There’s a lot more investigation that should go on before Congress comes to any conclusions like that,” he told reporters.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): Like several of her Senate colleagues in the race, Klobuchar said on Monday that she would take a wait-and-see approach to impeachment proceedings, and deferred any judgement on the validity of impeachment to the House.
“I believe very strongly that President Trump should be held accountable,” she told the audience at a CNN town hall. “The impeachment proceedings are up to the House. They’re going to have to make that decision.”
Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA): At a CNN town hall earlier this month, the Washington governor was asked about impeachment not related to the Mueller report, but to the Trump administration’s policy of kidnapping immigrant children and holding them in cages along the southern border. Inslee cautioned that impeachment was a hard bar to clear, and said Democrats and the American people would be better served by focusing on removing Trump from office the old fashioned way.
“We should have a dramatic, concerted, energetic, and successful effort in November 2020 to make Donald Trump a blip in history,” he said.