Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said President Trump will be emboldened if congressional Democrats, fearing a political backlash, "do nothing" in the wake of
the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
"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 on "Face the Nation" Sunday.
"We cannot afford that. Our democracy cannot afford that," he added.
On Thursday the Justice Department released a redacted version of Mueller's repeated attempts to derail and end the special counsel's investigation., which did not establish any Trump campaign associate conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 election, but nevertheless detailed the president's
Noting that investigators did not follow a "traditional prosecutorial judgement" because of different factors — including Justice Department guidelines stating sitting presidents cannot be indicted — Mueller did not reach a conclusion in his probe into whether the president committed.
Since the report's release, Democrats have grappled with a quandary: whether to take the political risk of initiating impeachment proceedings against the president or continue investigating his conduct and business dealings through House committees. While most of the top Democratic leadership in Congress and 2020 contenders are advocating for a cautious approach, some progressives, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have concluded the conduct outlined in the Mueller report.
Althoughhe can "foresee" impeachment proceedings "possibly coming," Cummings said he's "not there yet" and warned that many Americans still do not believe the president is "doing things to destroy our democracy." Still, the Maryland Democrat said Congress needs to take prompt action to expose the "great harm" he believes Mr. Trump is inflicting on the country.
In the process of obtaining more information about the president's conduct, Cummings added, impeachment could be an option, even if the Republican-controlled Senate refused to convict Mr. Trump and remove him from office.
"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," Cummings said.