Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the investigation into Russian electoral interference and a possible Trump-Russia conspiracy is “case closed.”
Speaking on the Senate floor, the Kentucky Republican issued a call to “finally end this ‘Groundhog Day’ spectacle, and to stop endlessly re-litigating a two-and-a-half-year-old election result, and move forward for the American people.”
“This investigation went on for two years,” McConnell said of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. “It’s finally over. Many Americans were waiting to see how their elected officials would respond.”
“With an exhaustive investigation complete, would the country finally unify to confront the real challenges before us? Would we finally be able to move on from partisan paralysis and breathless conspiracy theorizing?” he said. “Or would we remain consumed by unhinged partisanship, and keep dividing ourselves to the point that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his agents need only stand on the sidelines and watch as their job is done for them?”
“Regrettably, I think the answer is obvious,” he said.
McConnell echoed Trump’s recent comments in which he blamed President Barack Obama and his administration for Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election.
“Maybe stronger leadership would have left the Kremlin less emboldened. Maybe tampering with our democracy wouldn’t have seemed so very tempting,” McConnell said Tuesday.
The president recently tweeted that any actions the Russians took during the last presidential election were “done while Obama was president” and that Obama “was told about it and did nothing!”
The Obama administration imposed a series of sanctions on Russia for its role in contributing to violence in Ukraine and for its annexation of Crimea. Toward the end of the Obama administration, the U.S. also announced sanctions against Russia for its hacking campaign in 2016 and the administration also expelled 25 Russian intelligence operatives and closed two U.S.-based Russian compounds.
In his remarks Tuesday, McConnell said that election interference was only one part of Russia’s strategy in 2016 “to undercut the United States” and that the Trump administration has “taken the problem head-on.”
Last year, Obama administration officials accused McConnell of having “watered down” an official warning about Russia’s electoral meddling, an accusation McConnell pushed back on.
The president spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone Friday for more than an hour — and later Trump said he did not address the issue of Russian interference in U.S. elections.
Senate Minority Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blasted McConnell Tuesday, saying that his speech was a “whitewashing” of the Mueller report’s conclusions.
“He doesn’t want to move on. He wants to run away,” Schumer said of McConnell. “He wants to run away from these awful facts that relate to the wellspring of our democracy — foreign interference in our election and a president who’s lawless.”
In remarks on the Senate floor later Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 presidential candidate, called for Trump’s impeachment, saying “if any other human being had done what’s documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and thrown in jail.”
“This is not about politics,” said the Massachusetts Democrat, who read extensively from Mueller’s report on the floor. “This is about the Constitution of the United States of America. We took an oath not to try to protect Donald Trump. We took an oath to protect — and serve — the Constitution of the United States of America, and the way we do that is we begin impeachment proceedings now against this president.”
The special counsel’s report, which Attorney General William Barr released in redacted form last month, detailed multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, although the special counsel said the evidence did not amount to a Trump-Russia conspiracy. Mueller also detailed Trump’s actions with regard to possible obstruction of the investigation, saying that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Barr, weeks before he released the report, determined that Trump did not obstruct justice, saying the evidence did not support that charge. In congressional testimony last week, the attorney general said he “did not exonerate” the president.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., meanwhile, has subpoenaed the full unredacted Mueller report and its underlying documents from the Justice Department, which has not complied. As a result, Nadler plans to hold a vote Wednesday on a measure to hold Barr in contempt for not handing over the requested materials.
In addition to the full report, Democrats are demanding that Mueller come before Congress and provide public testimony regarding his investigation and conclusions. Trump, however, said Sunday that Mueller should not testify.