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The 3 key points Rep. Jeffries took away from Mueller’s testimony

The Wednesday testimony of former special counsel Robert Mueller disappointed some House Democrats. In the aftermath, they are considering options -- and remain divided on impeachment. New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, talks to Judy Woodruff about why the day was important, evidence of President Trump’s obstruction of justice and where Democrats go from here.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    One day after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified on Capitol Hill, the fallout continues over what it means for President Trump, for Republicans who support him, and for Democrats who want him held accountable.

    A short time ago, I spoke with Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and began by asking about criticism that the hearing didn't produce anything new.

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.:

    Robert Mueller established three important things that spring forth from his report, one, that Russia attacked our democracy in sweeping and systematic fashion, for the sole purpose of trying to help Donald Trump and artificially place him at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    Two, that the Trump campaign welcomed Russian interference and assistance at the highest level, which is quite an extraordinary finding. And that, three, when a criminal investigation was launched into trying to figure out what happened with respect to Russia's attack on our democracy, there is substantial evidence that exists that demonstrates that the president himself engaged in obstruction of justice.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, as you know, the special counsel, Mr. Mueller, yesterday repeated that he found no evidence to prove a conspiracy, which is what is required to move ahead with any sort of legal case, and that he chose not to reach a decision on the question of obstruction.

    So the question is, have the Republicans now, frankly, gained the upper hand in all of this?

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.:

    Not at all. And this is not an issue for Democrats or Republicans.

    This should be an issue about what's right for the American people, because we cannot tolerate a circumstance where a hostile foreign power interferes in our elections, impedes the integrity of the democratic process, in order to uphold their own self-interests, not the well-being of the American people.

    And that's exactly what happened in 2016 in terms of Russia's attack on our democracy.

    What was established by Bob Mueller — and he was very clear on this — is that even if he didn't find criminal conspiracy with respect to coordination between Russian spies and operatives at Vladimir Putin's direction and Donald Trump or members of the Trump campaign, that the president of the United States, be he a Democrat or be she a Democrat or Republican, should be held to a higher standard of decency and respect for our democracy.

    That was quite an extraordinary statement by Bob Mueller, because he's been so limited in sharing his views otherwise.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There is no more evidence, according to your leadership, to proceed with an impeachment inquiry. We don't see any movement by the Justice Department. So, what are Democrats left with?

    Are you not farther away — further away today from an impeachment inquiry than you were before?

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.:

    Well, from my standpoint, this was never about whether to proceed with impeachment or not to proceed with impeachment.

    We have to follow the facts, apply the law, and be guided by the United States Constitution, consistent with our responsibility as members of the House of Representatives, which is a separate and co-equal branch of government.

    We don't work for Donald Trump. We work for the American people. And the Constitution is very clear. We have an Article 1 constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on an out-of-control executive branch.

    We have oversight responsibilities. We need the make sure we undertake them. We shouldn't overreach. We shouldn't overpoliticize. We shouldn't overinvestigate, but we need to follow the truth and elucidate that to the American people, guided just simply, Judy, by this principle: No single individual in America is above the law, not even the president of the United States of America.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But the question remains, where do you go from here? We know Democrats are issuing a subpoena for the president's former legal counsel, Don McGahn. There is interest in other people around the president.

    So far, none of those individuals have been willing to provide more information. So, where do the Democrats go from here? What's next?

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.:

    Well, yes. No, important question.

    All of those individuals are part of a massive executive branch cover-up that is taking place and that is quite extraordinary, unlike anything we have seen since Richard Nixon.

    There is a dispute right now between the Congress in terms of our rightful oversight ability to secure fact witnesses and information and the executive branch, which is stonewalling day after day after day.

    We expect that the courts will continue to rule in our favor, and that we will be able to get to a point where witnesses like Don McGahn or Hope Hicks or Corey Lewandowski and others, Reince Priebus, can participate in oversight hearings to share information with the American people about what actually took place over the last two years in connection with the Mueller investigation and the troubling findings.

    Jerry Nadler has also been clear that we're going to have hearings dealing with three issues, obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and the culture of corruption. This was the beginning of that process, not the middle and certainly not the end.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But aren't you up against the election clock, Congressman, in that we are in the throes, we're at the beginning throes of the 2020 presidential election?

    You have primaries coming up early next year. How do you get this done in this climate, in this season?

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.:

    Well, I think that we will reevaluate where we are in September.

    Over the next six weeks, we will have an opportunity to go back home, spend time with our constituents, get a sense of their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations, both as it relates to the issues they want us to focus on and how we can hold this administration accountable, be that hearings or oversight investigations or an impeachment inquiry.

    When we reconvene in September, I'm certain that the House Democratic Caucus will have a group conversation, sharing our perspectives, based on what we have heard from our constituents, about the way forward in the fall.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.:

    Thank you very much.

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