Representative Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat and chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said that President Donald Trump will be emboldened if congressional Democrats fail to take action in response to the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, CBS News reports.
“If we do nothing here, what is going to happen is that the president is going to be emboldened. He’s going to be emboldened because he’s said, ‘Well, I got away with that,'” Cummings said during an appearance on “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We cannot afford that. Our democracy cannot afford that,” he continued.
Democrats have struggled with the political calculations surrounding their response to the report, with no clear consensus as to the best path forward in the wake of the Russia investigation. Many wonder whether it is worth the risk of pushing impeachment in an uncertain political climate and in the context of Mueller’s report which is vaguely inconclusive when it comes to Trump’s culpability in Russian meddling and, perhaps more unclear, obstruction of justice.
Most of Democratic leadership, plus the majority of 2020 presidential contenders, are generally advocating for caution. The recently-emerging progressive wing of the party, on the other hand, is showing less patience, with notable figures like Senator Elizabeth Warren and freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez advocating openly and aggressively in favor of impeachment.
For the moment, Cummings seems to remain in the former camp, taking his time and avoiding advocating openly for impeachment proceedings. Although the congressman has said that he can imagine impeachment action occurring at some point in the future, he is “not there yet” and seems to believe that many, if not most, Americans continue to feel that the president is not yet clearly “doing things to destroy our democracy.”
None-the-less, Cummings has equivocated, saying that Congress needs to act promptly in order to expose and address what he calls the “great harm” Trump is currently inflicting on the country.
In clarification of that position, Cummings has stated that while he doesn’t see impeachment as imminent, it could become more pressing through the course of obtaining more information about Trump’s conduct. He said that there could be value in the exercise, even under a political reality in which a conviction in the Senate remained unlikely.
“Even if we did not win, possibly, if there were not impeachment, I think history would smile upon us for standing up for the Constitution,” he said.