Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says Congress should not rule out impeachment of President Donald Trump following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report this week on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
While some Democratic leaders have called impeachment proceedings politically infeasible or unwise, Inslee, in an interview as part of his 2020 presidential campaign, argued Congress has a responsibility to aggressively examine alleged misconduct by Trump.
“Now Congress really needs to get to the bottom of this in a vigorous investigation and see where that leads, and impeachment should not be off the table,” Inslee said in an interview with a Los Angeles TV station while in that state on a campaign trip this week.
The Mueller investigation found members of the Trump campaign expected to benefit from Russia’s illegal election interference, but did not conspire. Mueller’s report also detailed Trump’s efforts to thwart the investigation, noting they “were mostly unsuccessful” because “the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”
Trump and his supporters have hailed the report as a vindication, with the president tweeting it was “Game Over” for “the haters and the radical left Democrats.”
Inslee said the report shows “that the president tried and tried and tried to stop this investigation. He failed, but I think we ought to be disturbed that he was making an effort to obstruct justice.”
He said Congress should get Mueller to testify and obtain Trump’s business and tax records. “We need to continue this. This is not the end. It’s not the beginning of the end. Maybe it’s the end of the beginning,” Inslee said.
Some top Democrats have tread cautiously on the subject of trying to remove Trump from office, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer telling CNN that “going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point.”
But the subject is sure to attract further attention from Democratic presidential primary candidates striving to stand out in a growing field.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., went further than Inslee on Friday, saying the House should begin impeachment proceedings. She argued that failure to do so would leave future presidents “free to abuse their power in similar ways.”
Some members of Washington’s congressional delegation have reacted to the Mueller report by saying they’re still digesting it, with some calling for more information, including a copy of the full report. The version released this week contained hundreds of redactions.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, where any impeachment proceedings would start, said in a statement Congress has a right “to review the Special Counsel’s full investigation without omissions to determine what steps must be taken — and whether further action is necessary.”
Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish, downplayed talk of impeachment in an emailed statement.
“I am still reading the Mueller report. The information is very damning and sadly not surprising. At this point I am still sticking with my statement that impeachment likely won’t remove the president from office and will further divide the country,” Schrier said, pointing instead to the 2020 elections as a remedy.
Impeachment is a rarely used constitutional authority by which Congress can remove a president for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” It requires articles of impeachment to be voted on by a majority of the U.S. House, with a subsequent trial in the Senate requiring a two-thirds majority to convict.
Just two U.S. presidents have been impeached: Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868. Both were acquitted by the Senate and stayed in office. Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in 1974 to avoid a looming impeachment and likely removal.