As he closed his investigation on Wednesday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller alluded to impeachment, noting that the Constitution spells out a process to “formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.”
Several Democratic presidential candidates took it from there, saying for the first time that the House should begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
In tweets and remarks to the press on Wednesday, California Sen. Kamala Harris; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro called for impeachment proceedings to start.
They joined Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who first called for impeachment proceedings to begin in late April.
Of the Democratic 2020 candidates, only Moulton could vote to begin impeachment proceedings, while Harris, Booker, Gillibrand and Warren would be part of the Senate trial if the House moved to impeach Trump.
The candidates generally agreed that Mueller’s 448-page report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by the White House amounted to an “impeachment referral.”
Not all 2020 candidates agreed. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee stated that Trump and Attorney General William Barr “lied about the Mueller report,” but did not call for impeachment proceedings to begin. Former Vice President Joe Biden released a statement which said that Congress must continue to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. The statement added that “impeachment may be unavoidable” but did not explicitly call for proceedings to begin.
For his part, Mueller was careful not to endorse or caution against impeachment. In his eight-minute remarks, the former FBI director said that his team found “insufficient evidence” that any Americans conspired with Russia to interfere in the elections, that they could not charge a sitting president with a crime under Department of Justice precedent and that they would have cleared Trump of obstruction of justice if they could have.
“As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” he said.
Voting to begin impeachment proceedings does not guarantee that the House would ultimately vote to impeach Trump, and it would take a two-thirds supermajority of the Senate to convict and remove him from office. No president in U.S. history has ever been removed from office by impeachment, with Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton winning Senate trials, and Richard Nixon resigning before he was impeached.
Here’s what the 2020 candidates said about impeachment proceedings.