WASHINGTON – Democrats in Washington believe Special Counsel Robert Mueller just gave them the go-ahead to start the impeachment process with his public statement explaining why he didn't pursue legal action against the president.
Mueller finally broke his silence Wednesday, clarifying his findings in the Russia investigation and why he chose not to bring charges against President Donald Trump.
Mueller chose his words carefully in a well-crafted public statement, especially on the issue of obstruction.
"Under longstanding department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office." Mueller said from the podium. "That is unconstitutional."
Where Mueller and His Boss Disagreed
Mueller walked through a few highlights of the 450-page report, explaining that charging Trump with obstructing the investigation was not going to happen from the outset, adding though that he did not exonerate the president.
"If we had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, we would have said so," Mueller said.
That's where Mueller and his boss disagreed. After receiving Mueller's report, Attorney General Bill Barr determined the president had not committed obstruction.
In his statement, Mueller also reiterated that there was no evidence of a Trump campaign conspiracy with the Russians.
Mueller's Call for Impeachment?
But it was one statement from Mueller in particular that many Democrats and presidential candidates took as their cue to move forward with impeachment: "The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing."
Rep. Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was quick to react and made clear he wants Congress to act.
"It falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies, and other wrongdoing of President Trump," Nadler told reporters. "We will do so."
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said in a statement that Mueller returned an "impeachment referral," adding, "Now it's up to Congress to hold this president accountable. We need to begin impeachment proceedings."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was one of the first candidates to call for impeachment. "It's up to Congress to act," she said in a statement. "They should."
Others though, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), are urging caution.
"You don't bring impeachment unless you have all the facts," said Pelosi.
What's Next for Mueller?
Mueller made it clear he doesn't want to appear before Congress and that the report is his testimony.
"Beyond these few remarks it is important that the office's written work speaks for itself," he said.
Meantime, President Trump had harsh words for Mueller, speaking to reporters Thursday morning in front of the White House. He said Mueller had an ax to grind with him because of a past business deal gone bad and among other things called Mueller a "Never Trumper."
In his statement, Mueller made it clear he hopes this all points to Russian interference in the 2016 election. He said election security deserves the attention of every American.