Presidential candidate Julián Castro argued fiercely during Wednesday’s primary debate for congressional Democrats to begin impeachment proceedings against President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Oversight Committee requests documents from CBP Facebook groups Young Turks host says Marianne Williamson proved why she 'deserves' to be on debate stage White House calls trade talks with China 'constructive' MORE, saying it would play in Trump’s favor if they don't.
“If they don’t impeach him, he’s going to say, ‘The Democrats didn’t go after me on impeachment, and you know why? I didn’t do anything wrong,’” said Castro, who served as secretary of House and Urban Development under former President Obama.
“Conversely, if Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOcasio-Cortez pushes back on McConnell's claim of 'modern-day McCarthyism' The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Senate braces for brawl over Trump's spy chief MORE lets him off, we’re going to say, sure. They impeached him in the House, his friend [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell — ‘Moscow Mitch’ — let him off the hook,” Castro said, referring to the Kentucky Republican.
Even if the House successfully votes to impeach Trump, it would be certain to fail in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Castro was responding to Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThe Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Racked by schism, Democrats yearn for Obama The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's new target: Elijah Cummings MORE (D-Colo.), who suggested Democrats needed to be careful in starting impeachment proceedings, especially as it gets closer to the Iowa caucuses, because, Bennet said, the president would trumpet an acquittal.
The 10 candidates on stage Wednesday were asked about former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE’s report and potential impeachment at the end of the second July debate. The topic did not come up during Tuesday night’s debate.
Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisO'Rourke predicts Democrats 'can win Texas' away from Trump in 2020 CNN roasted over debate production, format: 'A disservice to serious people' The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE (D-Calif.), a former prosecutor, defended her past comments that her Justice Department would likely pursue charges against Trump over obstruction of justice.
Harris said she would “never direct” the department to pursue a case against anyone, but argued there are “10 clear instances of obstruction of justice” by Trump laid out in Volume II of Mueller’s report.
“The reality is I have seen people go to prison for far less,” Harris said. “No one is above the law, including the president of the United States.”
Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Yang likens Democratic debate to 'boring football game' Overnight Health Care: Trump campaign ad to hit Dems on health care during debate | ACLU says 900 migrant kids separated over past year | Medicaid expansion backers use ballot measures to sidestep GOP MORE (D-N.J.) argued for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump in order to hold him accountable for acting as an “authoritarian.”
“We took an oath to uphold this Constitution,” Booker said. “The politics of this be damned.”
New York Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioThe Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate De Blasio defends Al Sharpton amidst Trump attacks Trump signs 9/11 compensation fund bill alongside first responders MORE (D) agreed that Trump has “committed crimes worthy of impeachment” but urged Democrats to be wary not to ignore addressing pressing issues for the American people.
“Move for impeachment, but don’t forget to do the people’s business,” de Blasio said.
Mueller’s report details nearly a dozen instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump, but the former special counsel did not reach a conclusion either way on whether Trump obstructed the Russia investigation. His report pointedly declines to exonerate Trump on obstruction allegations.
Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrThree years ago the DEA said they would remove roadblocks to cannabis research — they still haven't No mention of Mueller, impeachment during second Democratic debate UN: Trump administration 'rolling back progress' with death penalty decision MORE and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinNo mention of Mueller, impeachment during second Democratic debate Mueller hearings should lead Democrats to be shocked at abuse of justice system The question isn't whether Trump obstructed justice, but whether Congress even cares MORE judged the evidence insufficient to accuse Trump of criminal wrongdoing.
However, Democrats have argued the report contains clear evidence that Trump committed crimes and would have been charged if not for the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion stating a sitting president cannot be indicted.
The number of Democrats supporting a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump has ticked up in the wake of Mueller’s public congressional testimony last week.
The House Judiciary Committee has filed an application seeking the grand jury material underlying Mueller’s report, saying the panel needs it to decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Trump.
Still, House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Democrats warn of Trump trap No mention of Mueller, impeachment during second Democratic debate MORE (D-Calif.) has remained against beginning formal impeachment proceedings, saying Democrats need to focus on their investigations of Trump and his administration and related court battles.