A majority of House Democrats now supports launching an impeachment inquiry for President Trump, according to a Fox News tally — the latest sign that Robert Mueller’s shaky testimony did little to arrest the momentum inside the caucus for that politically explosive step.
With fresh support for the inquiry from California Rep. Salud Carbajal, the number of House Democrats in favor reached 118 on Friday. That’s more than half of the 235 House Democrats.
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“Our nation has seen and heard things from this president that have no place in our democracy. I believe it is time to open an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump,” Carbajal tweeted.
Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican-turned-independent, also backs the impeachment push.
For now, the milestone is symbolic. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains cool to the idea, insisting Congress proceed with its investigations before considering such a drastic step.
But the rapidly growing number shows that many members are not heeding her calls for patience, and not too concerned that the former special counsel’s testimony last week turned up no new bombshells.
Suggesting they’re driven in large part by the lingering allegations of obstruction, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. — one of the most senior members to back an impeachment inquiry — said last week that the president has “abused the power of his office in an effort to stymie a legitimate investigation into his campaign’s involvement with Russia.”
A total of two-dozen lawmakers have endorsed the impeachment inquiry since Mueller’s back-to-back hearings. Those in support include 16 members of the House Judiciary Committee that would lead such an effort.
While confusion hangs over what exactly Democrats are pursuing, several have indicated they see their push as the prelude to a decision on whether to recommend articles of impeachment at the committee level. Some Democrats even said after the Mueller hearings that they were already proceeding with an “impeachment investigation.”
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., as a next step, filed a petition in D.C. federal court to obtain grand jury materials from the former special counsel’s investigation. The petition claimed that the committee needed the information in order to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment, in an attempt to give the request more weight in the eyes of the court.
But Nadler has not formally endorsed the impeachment inquiry process, arguing that the committee is essentially already doing the work of impeachment.
“Too much has been made of the phrase impeachment inquiry,” Nadler said, noting the panel’s ongoing probes of the president and his associates.
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Trump, meanwhile, declared the Mueller testimony a “bust” while saying nothing will ever be “good enough” for Democrats determined to go after him.
“Robert Mueller’s testimony, and the Mueller Report itself, was a disaster for this illegal Democrat inspired Witch Hunt,” he tweeted afterward.
Mueller stood by his team’s findings at last week’s hearings—reiterating that the special counsel’s office found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy between Trump associates and Russia, while also stating that the president was not exonerated on allegations of obstruction of justice despite his assertions to the contrary.
But in doing so, he also repeatedly refused to drift beyond the bounds of his report. This was, to an extent, expected as Mueller had signaled he would only address material already in the public record.
Meanwhile, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have argued that an impeachment inquiry is “not an official thing” and blasted the latest court filing. Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins, R-Ga., said last week that Democrats have “no right” to the grand jury materials to begin with.
“Chairman Nadler’s legal action here is sure to fail, weakening Congress’s ability to conduct oversight now and into the future. If my colleagues want grand jury information, they should propose legislation allowing Congress to access it,” he said in a statement. “Democrats want to convince their base they’re still wedded to impeachment even after [last week’s] hearing, but a baseless legal claim is an odd way to show that.”
But even as his committee proceeds with court filings and their Trump-focused investigation, Nadler has danced around whether Democrats are officially running an impeachment inquiry.
“We have impeachment resolutions before the committee. We are conducting investigations to determine whether we should report those impeachment resolutions to the House or direct our own and report those to the House. We’re considering those resolutions,” Nadler said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “We’ll make a determination after we get more evidence as to the president’s crimes that we had from the Mueller report and also from other things.”
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He added: “We’re investigating whether to report — whether to approve articles of impeachment before the committee.”
And despite her public reluctance to proceed with impeachment, Pelosi said she is keeping options open.
“Let’s get sophisticated on this,” she said last week. “We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed–not one day sooner.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.