2020 Democrats sidestep impeachment talk after Mueller report release

By Kathryn Watson

/ CBS News

Lawmakers' next steps after Mueller report

Democrats with an eye on the presidency in 2020 are stopping short of calling for President Trump's impeachment after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the last election.

Numerous Democratic lawmakers criticized the president and called for further lines of inquiry after Muller's report was released on Thursday. But while some in the party say they favor impeaching the president, no Democratic presidential candidate has yet signed on to the idea since the release of Mueller's report.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer appeared to set the tone for many in the party's leadership Thursday when he said that impeachment is not yet on the table.

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"Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point," Hoyer told CNN after the release of Mueller' report. "Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgment."

Mueller's report found that Russia engaged in a sweeping attempt to influence the 2016 presidential campaign and favored then-candidate Donald Trump. It also concluded that Trump campaign aides had links to but did not conspire with Russia, and that Mr. Trump attempted multiple times to interfere with the special counsel's investigation.

Many Democrats who have announced or are expected to announce bids for the White House called on Mueller to testify before Congress, and for the release of the full, un-redacted report. They also called on Congress to continue investigating.

"While we have more detail from today's report than before, Congress must continue its investigation into Trump's conduct and any foreign attempts to influence our election," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement. "We must also work to do everything we can to protect our future elections from the significant threat of foreign interference, and I call on President Trump and Republican leadership to stop obstructing the necessary work to protect our democracy."

"This is a disgrace. The American people deserve answers—and Special Counsel Robert Mueller should testify publicly before Congress. #ReleaseTheFullReport," Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted.

Democratic Rep. Eric Swallwell didn't call for Mr. Trump's impeachment, but did call for Attorney General William Barr to resign.

"You can be the President's defense attorney or America's Attorney General, but you can't be both," Swallwell said in a statement.

Others explicitly said that the best way to handle Mr. Trump is to defeat him in 2020.

"I am glad that the Mueller Report has been made public. It's important to the American people. My focus is on beating Donald Trump at the ballot box and solving the problems that got him elected in the first place," Democratic businessman Andrew Yang tweeted.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg tweeted Mueller's report "demonstrates why we need to change the channel in 2020." Asked point-blank whether he thinks the president should be impeached, he said that's up to Congress.

"I think that Congress needs to make that decision. I think he may well deserve it, but my focus, since I'm not a part of Congress but I am part of 2020, is to give him a decisive defeat at the ballot box, if he is the Republican nominee in 2020," Buttigieg said during an event with union workers in Boston.

In a statement, Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard appeared to break with the rest of the Democratic presidential field, saying it's time to "move on beyond this divisive issue."

"Now we must stand together and move beyond this divisive issue that has taken up enough of the national conversation. I'm calling on Congress to protect the integrity of the 2020 elections—and all elections—by passing my Securing America's Elections Act, which empowers every state to use voter-verified paper ballots, making it impossible for Russia or anyone else to change our election results," she said.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden, who has not formally entered the race, told reporters on Thursday that he had not yet read the Mueller report.

Jack Turman and Katie Ross Dominick contributed to this report

First published on April 19, 2019 / 2:45 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Kathryn Watson

Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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