Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent an unmistakable message Tuesday that just like President Donald Trump, he thinks it is time to move on from the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
But the Kentucky Republican never mentioned the 10 credible episodes of potential obstruction of justice by the President when he declared on the Senate floor “case closed” on the Mueller report.
Instead, McConnell highlighted that after a lengthy investigation, Mueller found Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russia.
“Two years of exhaustive investigation and nothing to establish the fanciful conspiracy theory that Democratic politicians and TV talking heads had treated like a foregone conclusion,” McConnell said. “This ought to be good news for everyone but my Democratic colleagues seem to be publicly working through the five stages of grief.”
An aide to McConnell would not explain why McConnell’s address, which was carefully crafted with his staff over the last few days, did not include any mention of the second volume of Mueller’s report.
When asked by CNN at a news conference later Tuesday why he did not mention obstruction, McConnell didn’t answer directly, instead saying that “it is over” and attacking Democrats for trying to keep the issue alive.
The omission was noted in a statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, both Democrats.
“Senator McConnell’s declaration of ‘case closed’ is a stunning act of political cynicism and a brazen violation of the oath we all take,” they said. “The Special Counsel report laid out eleven instances of the President’s obstruction and left a raft of unanswered questions about coordination between the President’s campaign and Russia.”
At his own news conference later Tuesday, Schumer called McConnell’s comments “disgraceful.”
“That is not doing what America needs,” Schumer said.
Mueller’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice could not clear Trump, according to a redacted version of the special counsel’s report released last month. Following the end of Mueller’s investigation, Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute an obstruction case. Hundreds of former Justice Department officials said in an open letter released Monday that Trump would face multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice stemming from the Russia investigation if he were not President.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts who is running for president, took to the Senate floor soon after McConnell spoke and read sections of Mueller’s report on obstruction.
McConnell’s speech coincided with – and seemed designed to blunt – the fast-moving and high-profile developments this week in the House, where multiple Democratic-led investigations are ramping up.
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote Wednesday to hold Barr in contempt for refusing to turn over the unredacted version of Mueller’s report, and former White House lawyer Don McGahn missed a deadline to turn over other documents. The Ways and Means Committee is developing its next steps after the administration denied the committee access to Trump’s tax returns.
McConnell knows his message won’t resonate with House Democrats – who he called part of an “outrage industrial complex that spans from Capitol press conferences to cable news” – but he recognizes it may muddy the impact of their actions for investigation-wary Americans.
McConnell’s words reflect the general wishes of the caucus he leads, where only a few GOP senators have called for Mueller to publicly testify.
“I think it probably would be healthy for the country to move on,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who’s a McConnell ally. “Because otherwise the charade is just going to continue, to try to parse and pick apart every sentence and punctuation mark of that. It’s not going to change the outcome.”
Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican who is running for re-election, said the desire by Democrats to have Mueller testify is “pure political theater” and he opposes “giving them another stage to perform on.”
Two frequent Trump critics have said they want to hear from Mueller. “It appears that Mr. Mueller would like to testify, and I think it would give an opportunity for the public to get additional views and clarifications about some parts of his report,” said Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican of Maine who is up for reelection.
“I’d love to hear his perspective on the report, whether that’s in testimony or public comment,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican of Utah.
In his speech, McConnell outlined steps the Trump administration had taken to counter Russian interference in the 2018 campaign and boost election security in the states. He accused the Obama administration of fostering an environment that allowed Russia to interfere in the 2016 campaign.
McConnell also fiercely defended Barr against attacks by Democrats who, he said, “seem to be angrier at Bill Barr than Vladimir Putin.”
CNN’s Phil Mattingly, Manu Raju, Eli Watkins and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.