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House Democrats To Discuss How They'll Respond To Conclusions From The Mueller Report


House Democrats are divided over how Congress should respond to special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top committee chairs are holding a conference call this evening to hear out lawmakers on the path forward. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis is here in the studio now. Hi, Sue.


SHAPIRO: So where are the dividing lines among Democrats on this?

DAVIS: I think when it comes to the question of impeachment, you see, really, three camps. The most influential camp right now is led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who, from the very beginning, long before the Mueller report was released, has been an impeachment skeptic - that she is, in her words - that it was not worth it, and if you were ever going to go down that path, it would have to be both bipartisan and overwhelming.

You then have the base of the party, where a lot of the activity and energy is. You look at people like Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading 2020 candidates, already calling for impeachment hearings. You have a lot of the progressive freshmen women signing on to a resolution calling for impeachment hearings. That's people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. So that shows you where sort of the energy in the party is.

And then I think you have this third camp by a lot of veteran lawmakers, where they're kind of stuck in the middle. And House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings was on "Face The Nation" yesterday, and he spoke to this.


ELIJAH CUMMINGS: There comes a point in life where we all have to make decisions based upon the fact that it is our watch. And, you know, history - I think even if we did not win, possibly, if there were not impeachments, I think history would smile upon us for standing up for the Constitution.

DAVIS: I hear a lot of Democrats' talk sounding like Cummings, where they say, look; we know we don't have the votes for impeachment, but how are we going to be judged if we don't at least try? And Cummings also makes the point that if Democrats don't take a really aggressive stance here, they think that President Trump is just going to be really emboldened to continue to act in the kind of way he did in - outlined in the Mueller report.

SHAPIRO: Although, there's some question as to whether the president is already emboldened. I mean, today, he announced that he's suing Cummings to try to block that committee from gaining access to the Trump Organization's financial records. Cummings recently subpoenaed those records. I mean, isn't that a signal that the White House is already willing and eager to fight Democrats on their investigations?

DAVIS: I think absolutely. And I also think if you look at the other side of the aisle, how the Republicans responded to the report - they have really rallied behind the president with very few exceptions. And the president's attorney - one of his attorneys, Jay Sekulow, said today, in response to countersuing Elijah Cummings and his efforts to get these documents, he said, we will not allow presidential harassment to go unanswered, which shows you sort of the aggressive posturing of the White House on this.

You know, there has been some critics. I think Utah Senator Mitt Romney is one voice that has said he was appalled by the president's behavior outlined in the report. But on the whole, more Republicans have been acting like Republican Doug Collins. He's the top Republican on Judiciary. He went over to the DOJ today and looked at the unredacted Mueller report and put out a statement that said, I saw the unredacted report. There's nothing to see here. It corroborates the public findings, and we all need to move on.

SHAPIRO: There are options between impeachment and moving on.

DAVIS: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: What else are Democrats considering?

DAVIS: So one of the things Pelosi has been saying, and I think she's going to reiterate that again tonight, is you don't have to have, quote, unquote, "impeachment hearings" to do a lot of the things they say they're going to do. You know, Attorney General William Barr is coming up to the Hill next week to testify. They still want to hear directly from Robert Mueller. The House Judiciary Committee today subpoenaed former White House Counsel Don McGahn.

Another word that I think you should think about and we're going to hear a lot more of is the word censure. I've talked to some Democrats who say that impeachment isn't the only option. Censure is a way for Congress to take a public vote to reprimand the president, to let lawmakers go on record without having to go full bore on impeachment.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Susan Davis. Thanks a lot, Sue.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.