House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler vowed that Congress will take action after special counsel Robert Mueller, in a dramatic public appearance at the Justice Department, explained why his team of investigators did not bring any criminal charges against President Donald Trump.
The New York Democrat said Wednesday that Mueller's public remarks — his first since he completed his nearly two-year investigation into Russian election interference, alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow and whether the president obstructed justice — signal that it is now up to Congress to "respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump."
"Although Department of Justice policy prevented the special counsel from bringing criminal charges against the president, the special counsel has clearly demonstrated that President Trump is lying about the special counsel's findings, lying about the testimony of key witnesses in the special counsel's report and is lying in saying that the special counsel found no obstruction and no collusion," Nadler said in a statement.
"Given that special counsel Mueller was unable to pursue criminal charges against the president, it falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump — and we will do so," he added. "No one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law."
Nadler stopped short of calling for an impeachment inquiry, which his committee has the power to initiate and for which a number of key Democrats have expressed support.
Mueller on Wednesday said he could not charge Trump with a crime of obstruction of justice, citing a longstanding Justice Department policy that says a sitting president cannot be indicted.
"If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so," Mueller said.
Despite efforts by Democratic leaders to push back against calls from other key party members to mount a more aggressive stance toward impeachment, Mueller's televised press conference Wednesday appeared to spur a new series of calls by Democrats for the lower chamber to move in that direction.
Calls to open impeachment proceedings against the president have increased in recent weeks, especially following calls by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., to impeach Trump. Amash last week became the first Republican member of Congress to make such comments.
Following Mueller's Wednesday remarks, Amash tweeted, "The ball is in our court, Congress."
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., who had until recently cautioned members of his party to move slowly on impeachment, on Wednesday called on the House Judiciary Committee to launch an impeachment inquiry.
And House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who previously said he could "foresee" impeachment proceedings against Trump, said Wednesday that Mueller's statement, "confirms both the evidence of obstruction by the president and the critical role of Congress under the Constitution going forward."
Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, rallied behind Trump and stuck to their previous stance that the Mueller investigation that the case has been closed.
"Today's statement by Mr. Mueller reinforces the findings of his report," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wrote on Twitter. "And as for me, the case is over. Mr. Mueller has decided to move on and let the report speak for itself. Congress should follow his lead."
Former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said, "9 minute and 39 second press conference. Same conclusions. No new information. Time to move on."
"If @realDonaldTrump doesn't take a question for a few weeks, the media claims democracy is on life support. Robert #Mueller took 22 months to do the investigation. Followed by a 9 minute drive-by obstruction allegation. And then does not take a SINGLE QUESTION," he said.
Trump on Wednesday appeared to tout Mueller's remarks as an exoneration of his name, writing on Twitter: "Nothing changes from the Mueller report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you!"
Mueller's remarks came one week after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a closed-door meeting with House Democrats to discuss her party's oversight efforts of Trump. After the meeting, which came amid heightening calls for an impeachment inquiry among members of her caucus, Pelosi asserted her belief that Trump is "engaged in a cover-up" — a remark which escalated tensions between the speaker and the president.
Pelosi has responded to Mueller's report with exceedingly cautious remarks about impeachment, arguing that opening an impeachment inquiry against Trump is drowning the Democratic Party's message and weakening its legislative agenda. Still, she has not ruled one out. Pelosi said last week that Trump "wants to be impeached" so that he can be vindicated by the Senate, NBC News reported. She also reportedly called Trump's actions "villainous."
"Get the facts to the American people in our investigation," she told reporters last week at her weekly press conference. ". . . It may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment, but we're not at that place."