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Top Democrats are keeping their options open on impeachment

Reps. Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings explained why the House may move to impeach Trump knowing the effort is likely to fail in the Senate.

House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff Holds Press Conference On Mueller Report Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Top members of the Democratic Party appeared on television Sunday and were united in their messaging about the Mueller report. Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee; Rep. Jerry Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee; and Rep. Elijah Cummings, chair of the House Oversight Committee, all argued Mueller’s work paints a clear picture of obstruction and each suggested Democrats could move to impeach the president in the months to come.

On ABC’s This Week Sunday, Schiff said there’s “ample evidence of collusion in plain sight,” and called the Mueller report’s findings “more significant than Watergate.”

“The obstruction of justice in this case is far worse than anything Richard Nixon did,” Schiff said. Later in his appearance, Schiff added, “I do believe that [Trump] obstructed justice and did so in many ways.”

On NBC’s Meet the Press, Nadler told Chuck Todd there is “plenty of evidence of obstruction,” in the Mueller report. He added there is evidence in the report that could constitute grounds for impeachment.

“Obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable,” Nadler said. “We’re going to see where the facts lead us.”

Schiff went a bit further than Nadler, saying, “The level of evidence in the Mueller report is serious and damning and in normal circumstances would be without question within the realm of impeachable offenses.”

However, the representative said he believes “an impeachment is likely to be unsuccessful” because of the support President Donald Trump enjoys in Congress. Schiff specifically mentioned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as Republicans who would stand in the way of impeachment proceedings.

Despite this, Schiff said “it may be that we undertake an impeachment nonetheless,” and that Democrats will gather in the coming days to decide “what is the best thing for the country.” The Congress member argued not starting impeachment proceedings could send a message that the behaviors outlined in the Mueller report are “compatible with office,” and so Democrats might decide to work to impeach Trump knowing they will likely fail.

This argument was echoed by Cummings on CBS’s Face the Nation, who said that while he isn’t ready to advocate for impeachment, he believes if the House tries to impeach Trump and fails due to the Republican controlled Senate, “history would smile upon us for standing up for the Constitution.”

Cummings also said Congress has a duty to send a message to the president that certain behavior will not be tolerated.

“If we do nothing here, the president is going to be emboldened,” Cummings said. “His aiders and abettors will say, ‘He is pretty strong,’ and they will continue to go along with him.”

Cummings also criticized Attorney General William Barr, who told reporters at a press conference held hours before the Mueller report was released last week the report exonerated Trump.

“He is acting as the defense counsel for the president of the United States, when really, he’s supposed to be our lawyer — the people’s lawyer,” Cummings argued.

Schiff said Barr “should have never been confirmed,” but would not make a public call for his resignation: “I’m not ready to speculate about whether he should resign or not, given that that’s not going to happen, anyway.”

And Nadler said Barr “deliberately misled the American people.”

The trio have targeted Barr and Trump as a unit before. Just weeks ago, they released a joint statement after Barr released his summary of the Mueller report.

“It is unacceptable that, after special counsel Mueller spent 22 months meticulously uncovering this evidence, Attorney General Barr made a decision not to charge the President in under 48 hours. The Attorney General did so without even interviewing the President,” they wrote in late March.

The public will likely be hearing from all three men quite a bit in the weeks to come, particularly Nadler, who revealed on Meet the Press he plans to call former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before his committee. The Congress member also requested special counsel Robert Mueller himself appear before the Judiciary Committee no later than May 23.

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