Tallies by the Associated Press and National Public Radio indicate a majority of Democrats now favor the pursuit of a presidential impeachment inquiry. The question Buffalo-based Congressman Brian Higgins faced Friday was whether their Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, will feel compelled to act.
Friday, Representative Salud Carbajal of California became the 118th House Democrat to state his support for an inquiry, saying President Trump should face legal consequences for actions noted in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections. That report, according to Buffalo-based Congressman Brian Higgins, left questions unanswered.
"We have a congressional responsibility for oversight," Higgins said in Buffalo. "We have to finish what Robert Mueller did not finish."
The report concluded that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian sources looking to sway the 2016 vote. But is left open questions of whether obstruction of justice may have occurred in nearly a dozen instances.
Higgins noted that the Mueller investigation resulted in 200 criminal indictments, involving 34 individuals and three organizations. President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen and his former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, are both currently serving prison sentences for counts brought forth in the probe. But Mueller's work, Higgins insists, was left incomplete.
"I'm disappointed by that," he said. "He says in one section of the report that a Department of Justice memo that's over 40 years old indicates you can't indict a sitting president. And yet later in his report, he says that nobody is above the law."
The question is whether House Speaker Pelosi is closer to making a decision on whether to pursue an impeachment inquiry. She has indicated an interest in allowing ongoing investigations to conclude before making such a decision and, upon becoming Speaker, suggested an unwillingness to move in that direction without a groundswell of public support.
Could next year's presidential and congressional races, and concerns for an adverse voter reaction, be factoring in her hesitation? Higgins faced that question Friday.
"That's a calculus that has been thrown around quite frequently," he replied. "There's concern that if an impeachment inquiry commences and it results in an exoneration, that that is influencing the 2020 election. There's concern about firing up the base on both sides.
"But the bottom line is, for me, that Congress is the most powerful branch of the federal government and what should be a co-equal branch of the federal government, and the House of Representatives is the most powerful branch of Congress. We have a responsibility to make a budget and do oversight, and oversight includes investigations. That's why you have three investigatory committees: Judiciary, Oversight and Intelligence. Those committees, and those members who make up those committees - both Republican and Democrat - are duly elected to carry out their constitutional responsibilities."