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Democrats’ strategy on Mueller report: Steer clear of impeachment, talk about health care



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President Donald Trump reiterated how great he believes the findings from the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is and the “Republican party will soon be the party of health care.” (March 26)
AP, AP

WASHINGTON — Goodbye Mueller investigation, hello health care. 

Just two days after special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was shown to have found no collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, Democrats were largely united in moving away from the issue, including impeachment. 

They viewed it as a political gift when the Trump administration told a federal court Monday that it would ask judges to toss out the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“I believe that the Mueller report has been done. That’s a chapter that’s closed. And I think that last night, this administration opened a new chapter when it moved to completely invalidate the Affordable Care Act,” House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn told CNN Tuesday morning. 

In a meeting of House Democrats Tuesday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi briefly discussed a four-page summary of Mueller’s investigation sent to Congress by Attorney General William Barr. Democrats have demanded a copy of the full Mueller report. But her comments emphasized  moving forward on the Democratic policy agenda, according to a copy of her remarks provided by a congressional aide.

“We’re focusing right now on some of the bills that we’re going to be bringing to the floor,” Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., said after the meeting.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., opened his weekly leadership press conference by talking about the Trump administration’s call to get rid of Obamacare. He addressed the Mueller report minimally, to remind reporters that Democrats didn’t take over the House because of impeachment. 

“We won control of the House of Representatives, not focused on Russia, not focused on collusion, not focused on impeachment, not focused on obstruction of justice, but focused on health care, and on infrastructure and on cleaning up corruption in Washington D.C.,” he said.

Obamacare fight: White House says it wants a court to throw out health law

Trump’s victory lap: Will Mueller outcome help Trump in 2020?

Trump and his allies have taken a victory lap since the findings were announced Sunday. The president joined Republican senators for lunch at the Capitol Tuesday where he told reporters,  “the Mueller report was great. It could not have been better. It said ‘no obstruction, no collusion,’ it could not have been better.'”

In a letter to Congress Sunday, Attorney General William Barr said that Mueller’s probe did not find evidence Trump or members of his campaign conspired with Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election. But the report left “unresolved whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.”

At the Capitol, Trump said the GOP message on Obamacare following his administration’s announcement Monday was “The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care. You watch.”

Even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a progressive who has been vocal about her desire to see Trump out of office, distanced herself from impeachment Monday. 

“What’s tough, is impeachment, in principle, is something that I openly support, but it’s also just the reality of having the votes in the Senate to prove that. So that’s something we have to take into consideration,” Ocasio-Cortez responded when asked whether impeachment should remain on the table.

She said the Mueller report shouldn’t change Democrats’ political calculus going forward because it was never the pillar of what they campaigned on, even in her “deep blue district.”

Ocasio-Cortez was echoing a stance being pushed by Democratic leadership. Last week, before the summary had been released, in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY, Pelosi dismissed progressives who were calling for impeachment and said that it would be “a gift to the president.” 

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., insisted Tuesday morning that Democrats weren’t pivoting to health care from Mueller because they had been focused on it the whole time, along with the rest of their agenda. 

“We have been in a place for a long period of time where we said ‘impeachment was a distraction’ and that we were not pursuing impeachment,” Hoyer said.

He acknowledged that there were still members who “feel very, very strongly that this president is, by actions, by words, not qualified nor appropriate to be United States.”

Regardless, he said, impeachment “is not on the table.”

One Democrat who disagrees is Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. During that same Tuesday morning meeting, Tlaib pitched a resolution that would call for a Judiciary Committee investigation into whether Trump as president has committed any impeachable offenses, according to her spokesman, Denzel McCampbell. 

“We all swore to protect our nation, and that begins with making sure that no one, including the President of the United States, is acting above the law,” Tlaib wrote in a letter she has been circulating with colleagues and obtained by USA TODAY.

Democrats haven’t completely abandoned the Mueller report.

They’ve demanded the full report, by April 2, according to Hoyer. And they say they are prepared for a fight if they don’t get the document, which could include issuing a subpoena.

Contributing: Todd Spangler with the Detroit Free Press, Bart Jansen and Maureen Groppe with USA TODAY

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