WASHINGTON – Friday’s edition of the House Judiciary Committee’s attempts to learn more about the implications of special counsel Robert Mueller report on 2016 election interference followed a familiar partisan path of Republican calls to move on and Democrats’ response that Congress has a duty to hold the executive branch accountable.
The hearing, billed as “Lessons from the Mueller Report Part Three,” featured calls from Republicans to take on other serious topics, and questions from Democrats to understand their constitutional path forward to hold President Donald Trump accountable in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
This hearing and two previous hearings were efforts to follow up on the release of Mueller’s report in March.
For Friday’s hearing, lawmakers wanted to hear more about the constitutional methods they can use to compel information from Trump, members of his administration and others close to him whom he has kept from testifying.
Mueller himself is due before both the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees next week, and despite reports that his testimony has been delayed, the Judiciary Committee did not have a statement whether the date had been moved or not.
Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said language in the Mueller report relates to Congress’ next steps.
“The special counsel’s mention of these constitutional processes should not be taken lightly,” Nadler said. “It goes to the heart of Congress’ role in our constitutional system of checks and balances, and it is the subject of today’s hearing.”
But Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, repeated a question that many Republicans have been asking during the Muller-related hearings: What are we doing here?
“Why wouldn’t we use this … time to have an actual markup of immigration bills?” Collins asked. “Let’s actually get to solving real issues instead of having theoretical college discussions on what is Congress’ power.”
Friday’s witnesses testified, and as House Democrats have been discussing for weeks, that one of the constitutional methods for following up on the Mueller report is to vote to impeach Trump. The Senate then would have an impeachment trial.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., noted that the considerations for impeachment extend further than just questions of constitutional authority.
“Members of Congress have to take into account … public opinion, our districts,” Raskin said. “Should we think about this just as judges or should we think about this in the context of everything else we are trying to do?”
One of the witnesses, Chapman University Law Professor John Eastman, said that Congress needs to understand the accountability that comes with an impeachment inquiry.
“If you don’t bring actions against a president who has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, you will be held to political account,” Eastman said. “If you do pursue investigations on things that do not remotely rise to that level, you will also be held to political account. That’s the beauty of our system.”