Mitch McConnell Mueller report ‘case closed’ spurs new Democrat outrage
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tossed a stink bomb into Democrats’ anti-Trump party Tuesday, telling them the Russia investigation is “case closed” and urging them to get over their anger or risk playing into Moscow’s hands by sowing more discontent.
“What we’ve seen is a meltdown,” the Kentucky Republican said.
It went over about as one would expect in today’s hyper-partisan Washington.
Top Democrats said Mr. McConnell was now part of a “whitewash” and even suggested he was breaking his oath of office by suggesting an end to ongoing investigations.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation was supposed to be the final word. But nearly six weeks after he finished his work, and nearly three weeks after his report was made public in slightly redacted form, it’s clear little has been settled.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, took to the Senate floor to read parts of Mr. Mueller’s report into the Congressional Record, demanding that the House begin impeachment proceedings.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, wouldn’t go that far, but he rejected Mr. McConnell’s assertion that Mr. Mueller has settled matters and it’s time to move on.
He even suggested that President Trump is working to let Russia meddle in the 2020 election and Mr. McConnell is paving the way for that to happen.
“Of course he wants to move on. He wants to cover up. He wants to silence,” Mr. Schumer said.
He and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, also released a joint statement calling the McConnell speech “a stunning act of political cynicism.”
“On every issue that matters in people’s lives, the administration and a complicit Republican Senate are waging an unprecedented, unwarranted, unconstitutional and utterly dangerous campaign of stonewalling,” the two leaders said.
Mr. Schumer said he thought the McConnell speech was “getting huge blowback.”
If so, it didn’t seem to faze the Republican leader, who mocked Democrats as suffering publicly through the five stages of grief.
He said they began with denial and have moved on to anger. He said he hoped they would skip past the next two stages, bargaining and depression, and reach acceptance so the country can move on.
“It’s over,” he said. “I mean, I can understand why our friends on the other side are disappointed. They’ve been trying to look for some way to overturn the 2016 election for two long years. ... It’s time to accept the recommendations of Mueller’s report and to move on.”
Mr. McConnell said if there is one thing the report should prove, it’s that Democrats were slow to recognize the dangers of an aggressive Russia under Vladimir Putin.
He pointed to President Obama’s mockery of Mitt Romney, his 2012 Republican presidential opponent and now a sitting senator, for saying Russia was the biggest threat to the U.S. Mr. Obama called that a foreign policy stolen from the 1980s.
Mr. McConnell said given that view, it’s no wonder the Obama administration bungled its handling of Russian efforts to meddle in the U.S. election.
“Many of us now see President Obama’s approach to Russia could have used more 1980s, more Ronald Reagan, and less Jimmy Carter,” Mr. McConnell jabbed.
Despite finding some contacts between Trump campaign figures and Russians, Mr. Mueller said he could not establish any conspiracy. Both sides wanted the same thing a loss by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton but they did not work together to achieve it, according to the report.
In fact, Russian officials appeared at a loss about whom to contact with congratulations after Mr. Trump unexpectedly won the election, the report says. An official at the Russian Embassy in Washington first called, then later emailed, Hope Hicks, a communications adviser, with a “Message from Putin.”
Democrats, while saying they still see evidence of collusion, have instead focused on the second part of Mr. Mueller’s work in which he looked into the president’s angry reaction to the Russia investigation.
Mr. Mueller identified nearly a dozen instances of behavior that he said raised questions of obstruction of justice, though he did not conclude that any crimes took place.
Some Democrats say they look at the same evidence and do think crimes occurred, including some that rise to the level of impeachment.
Mrs. Pelosi said Tuesday that she is not eager to go down that route because a Republican-led Senate wouldn’t vote to convict and remove the president.
She said it’s Mr. Trump who wants to goad Democrats into taking the step, figuring it will help solidify his Republican base.
“Every single day he’s just like taunting, taunting, taunting. Because he knows that it will be very divisive for the country, but he doesn’t really care,” she said at the Cornell Institute of Politics and Global Affairs.
Still, Mrs. Pelosi seemed to inch closer to taking the bait.
She pointedly said that President Nixon faced impeachment partly over refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas. Mr. Nixon ultimately resigned in 1974 before the House could vote to impeach him.
Mrs. Pelosi drew parallels between Nixon and Mr. Trump.
“Every day he’s obstructing justice by saying this one shouldn’t testify. That one shouldn’t and the rest. So, he’s making a case,” she said.
⦁ Gabriella Muoz contributed to this report.