Silas Walker, KSL

Utah's only Democrat in Congress says there's still a 'high bar' for impeachment after Mueller statement

By Lisa Riley Roche, KSL | Updated - May 29, 2019 at 5:10 p.m. | Posted - May 29, 2019 at 2:58 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — The only Democratic member of Utah's congressional delegation said Wednesday there's still a "high bar" for impeaching President Donald Trump after the special counsel in the Russian investigation did not exonerate him.

"Congress will continue its oversight role," Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, said in a statement in response to the first public statement by special counsel Robert Mueller about the recently concluded look at Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"Any impeachment proceedings would be initiated by a committee that I’m not a member of, and for me, would require meeting a high bar and would have to be sufficiently bipartisan," McAdams said.

Mueller, who did not take questions, reiterated the key findings in the much-anticipated report made public last month during a surprise news conference at the U.S. Department of Justice.

"If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so," Mueller said, referring to the part of the report about the investigation into whether the president was involved in obstruction of justice.

The special counsel cited a long-standing department policy against charging a president with a federal crime while he or she is in office, but said investigators did not "make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime."

That's in contrast to what the president later tweeted: "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."

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, appeared to agree with Trump's assessment.

“Special Counsel Mueller had one job: to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He did just that. He found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. It is now time for us to move on as a nation,” he said.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, was even more succinct.

“Investigation complete. No collusion. Time to move forward," Bishop said in a statement.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, had no comment and Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, was busy with meetings as well as a bike ride as part of an environmental initiative and hadn't seen Mueller's statement.

Stewart continues to back looking into what he sees as abuses by officials at the FBI and Department of Justice in their investigation of Russian interference in the election.

"There was a conspiracy. There were leaks. There was collusion. It just didn't happen where they said it did. It happened with top officials at the Department of Justice and the FBI," he told Utah GOP state convention delegates in early May.

On Wednesday, Stewart said U.S. Attorney General William Barr's investigations that are already underway into what prompted the special counsel's investigation should continue.

Mueller said the efforts to interfere with the nation's political system "needed to be investigated and understood" and that was also why efforts to obstruct the investigation were examined.

"The matters we investigated were of paramount importance," Mueller said, adding that when a subject of an investigation obstructs or lies, "it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable."

Political pundits said they didn't expect Mueller's statement to change any minds.

"They heard from him today words that just reinforced the position they were already taking," said Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.

Perry said Mueller was attempting to clear up any ambiguity about the findings in the 448-page report, and make it clear what should happen next.

"There were two big questions there," Perry said. "One, he did not find evidence of collusion. That was a clear one. He left the other one, the question of obstruction, to the people he said should be responsible. And that is Congress."

LaVarr Webb, publisher of UtahPolicy.com, said Mueller's statement just fuels both sides of the debate in Congress, those who want to continue investigating Trump and those who want to go after the federal officials that launched the Mueller probe.

"Both sides are looking for conspiracies," Webb said. "It would be my advice to both of them to say, 'Let's call a truce. Both sides back off these investigations. Let's just go forward as a country.' Because this will just drag on forever."

House Democrats are already immersed in a number of investigations that could lead to impeachment proceedings, although it would be up to the Republican-controlled Senate to decide whether to remove the president.

And Barr has been given sweeping powers by the president to review what prompted the investigation into Russian election influence, including the ability to declassify documents from the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

There's political danger, Webb said, in both efforts.

He said unlike the rest of the Republicans in the state's congressional delegation, McAdams "has to walk a tightrope" on the issue after his narrow victory over former Rep. Mia Love in last year's 4th Congressional District election.

McAdams made a point of bringing up another part of Mueller's statement, about "multiple systemic efforts to interfere in our election" that resulted in indictments, something the special counsel said "deserves the attention of every American."

The Democratic Utah congressman said both Congress and the president "must prevent ongoing attempts by foreign governments to commit cybersecurity attacks and other crimes to meddle in our elections."

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