WASHINGTON – Maryland’s Democratic lawmakers on Thursday expressed outrage at President Donald Trump’s conduct detailed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report but stopped short of saying whether Congress should initiate impeachment proceedings.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said Democrats intend to pursue further the legal leads in the report.
“House Democrats, while continuing to move forward with our agenda of opportunity and economic growth for the people, will do our part responsibly by investigating whether obstruction of justice occurred and the scope of Russian interference,” Hoyer said in a statement.
“The truth must be uncovered, justice must be served, and accountability must be assured,” he said.
Hoyer blistered Attorney General William Barr for preceding the report’s release “with a press conference whose aim appeared to be shaping the public’s initial perceptions of the report.”
“In doing so, he clearly sought to exonerate the president of any wrongdoing,” he said. “However, it will be up to the Congress and the American people, who do not work for the president, to draw their own conclusions.”
Mueller’s report outlined numerous contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign, but concluded that neither the president nor his campaign colluded with or coordinated with the Russian government.
The 448-page document also provided numerous accounts in which Trump attempted to halt or impede the Mueller probe, but Mueller adhered to a Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president for crimes such as obstruction of justice.
Maryland’s Democrats in Congress expressed deep concerns about the findings, as well as with Barr’s handling of the process.
“The next (step) is for Congress to exercise its responsibility to take steps to protect us against Russia’s attacks against our Democratic system and to hold hearings with Mr. Mueller in regards to the president’s conduct,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, told Capital News Service.
“In his report, (Mueller) talks about the obstruction of justice and congressional interpretations of whether a sitting president can be indicted,” the senator said. “I think there are issues that we would want to understand how he reached his findings in regards to the president’s conduct.”
However, Cardin said he is not in favor of taking steps towards impeachment at this time.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said in a tweet: “The President and his Attorney General expect the American people to be blind to what we can now see.”
He added in a statement that Mueller’s report “catalogs in excruciating detail a proliferation of lies by the president to the American people, as well as his incessant and repeated efforts to encourage others to lie.”
“Contrary to Attorney General Barr’s attempts at misdirection,” the congressman added, “it is crystal clear from the report that the Justice Department’s policy against indicting a sitting president played a key role in Special Counsel Mueller’s analysis.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D- Kensington, and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted that “Congress will be eager to analyze the ten (10) separate episodes of obstruction that AG Barr was so eager to contradict. But the argument that Trump lacked the intent to obstruct because he was ‘frustrated and angry’ is ridiculous.”
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Timonium, said in a statement that “it is clear that the Department of Justice’s policy against indicting a sitting President played a key role in Mueller’s analysis. And it’s clear that he believes Congress should take a closer look.”
“Aside from the investigations into collusion and obstruction, the report describes, in vivid detail, conduct that – even if legal – runs roughshod over the ethical and moral standards we set for our president,” the congressman said.
“It shows clear links between the Trump campaign and a foreign power,” Ruppersberger said. “It outlines instances in which Trump officials lied to investigators and the public. It describes a president who refused to answer questions and whose aides destroyed evidence.”
“I encourage all Americans to read the report – especially the sections regarding obstruction of justice – so they can determine for themselves if the behavior described in this report is becoming of a United States president,” he said.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, called Barr’s press briefing ahead of the report’s release a “spin job” and wants to hear from Mueller himself.
“What’s clear from this politically motivated press conference is that Barr is more concerned about defending Trump then defending the United States,” Van Hollen said in a Facebook post.
“Since the Attorney General said he has no issue with Mueller testifying, it must happen without delay. The American people deserve the truth.”
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, mirrored the messaging by the White House and his party after the report came out.
“After two years of wasted time, energy, and $25 million, the special counsel has clearly exonerated the president from allegations of collusion with the Russian government,” Harris said in a statement. “The summary of the Mueller report we received in March clearly illustrated these findings. It’s time we move on from partisan politics to issues Americans truly care about.”