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Democratic presidential candidates urge Congress to keep investigating Trump

They argue that the Mueller report further demonstrates why Democrats need to win in 2020.

Sen. Bernie Sanders Participates In A Fox News Town Hall In Pennsylvania
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) participates in a Fox News town hall at SteelStacks on April 15, 2019, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Mark Makela/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

In the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Democratic presidential candidates think there’s room for Congress to explore the question of obstruction of justice charges — and others — a bit further.

“While we have more detail from [Thursday]’s report than before, Congress must continue its investigation into Trump’s conduct and any foreign attempts to influence our election,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said in a statement.

“Far from exonerating anyone, the Special Counsel report exposes disgraceful behavior by Donald Trump and his inner circle—both in seeking assistance from Russia & attempting to cover it up,” former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro wrote in a tweet. “Mueller should testify and Congress should investigate charges of obstruction of justice.”

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) — all members of the Judiciary Committee — are also among those urging Mueller to appear in Congress, so he can speak more directly to the findings of the two-year probe. They’ve hammered the need for transparency and pushed for an unredacted version of the report as well.

One notable reason for Democrats’ reactions: Mueller’s report ultimately differed significantly from Barr’s summary of it, including on the question of obstruction of justice.

Even as Barr cleared Trump of such charges, the report notes that Mueller and his team were not fully able to do so. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” it reads. Mueller also noted that one of the reasons the team refrained from charging Trump was because of Department of Justice policy barring the indictment of a sitting president.

“The inconsistencies between what Barr has told Congress and the public about the report, and what’s actually in the report, underscore the importance of hearing directly from Mueller himself about the investigation, not a mouthpiece for the Trump Administration,” Booker said in a statement.

As Vox’s Ella Nilsen writes, Mueller explicitly says it’s well within Congress’s abilities to determine if Trump obstructed justice. Among 2020 contenders, there’s a clear sense that Congress still has a key role to play in this follow-up.

House Democrats’ next steps are focused on two key things

Democratic lawmakers have already outlined a few key next steps they’d like to take in order to get more information about the two-year investigation into Russian election interference: They want to see Mueller testify and they want to subpoena an unredacted version of the report.

As Nilsen writes, House Democrats’ strategy on this subject has focused on incremental moves and shied away from sweeping calls for impeachment proceedings thus far. In the near-term, the immediate next steps to watch would be Congressional hearings which will feature Barr’s testimony, and a potential House hearing with Mueller, which Committee Chair Jerry Nadler wants to take place by May 23.

Klobuchar and Harris are among the Democrats skirting the question of impeachment, for now. “Our job is to be jury, so I’ve been really careful talking about if an impeachment is brought before us,” Klobuchar told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

“Well, I think that there’s definitely a conversation to be had on that subject, but first I want to hear from Bob Mueller and really understand what exactly is the evidence that supports the summary that we have been given today,” Harris noted.

Amid broader impeachment talk, 2020 contenders are highlighting the findings of the report as yet more reason Democrats need to retake the White House themselves. “Today again demonstrates why we need to change the channel in 2020,” South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg wrote in a tweet.

“The only way to really save our country? Defeat Donald Trump,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee posted.