Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued Tuesday that it’s time to move on from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and report, declaring “case closed” as House Democrats continue to investigate and demand the full, unredacted report as well as urge that Mueller himself testify.
“This investigation went on for two years,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor. “It’s finally over.”
In his comments, McConnell pushed the US legislative branch to change their focus toward “real challenges” or risk unintentionally aiding Russian President Vladimir Putin in interfering with American politics.
“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?” McConnell said. “Or would we remain consumed by unhinged partisanship, and keep dividing ourselves to the point that Putin and his agents need only stand on the sidelines and watch as their job is done for them?”
In March, Mueller concluded his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice. In a redacted version of his 448-page report, Mueller wrote that Trump had taken obstructive acts that could have hurt ongoing investigations. He did not decide whether to prosecute, but he did not exonerate Trump on the issue of obstruction.
The Democratic controlled-House Judiciary Committee has requested Mueller testify as early as next week to discuss the report and investigation.
McConnell accused his Democratic colleagues of having an “absolute meltdown” and an “inability to accept the bottom line conclusion on Russian inference from the special counsel’s report” that there was no collusion between Russia and Trump campaign associates.
“The special counsel’s finding is clear: case closed,” 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.”
Democrats have called on Attorney General William Barr to resign over his handling of the special counsel report. They point to a letter from Mueller to Barr, in which the special counsel expressed concerns that Barr’s four-page letter to Congress summarizing the “principal conclusions” of Mueller’s findings didn’t fully capture his report. During congressional testimony last week, Barr said the Mueller letter was “a bit snitty” and “was probably written by one of his staff people.”
“The Democrats are angry, angry that the facts disappointed them, angry that our legal system will not magically undo the 2016 election for them,” McConnell said. “And they’ve opted to channel all their partisan anger onto the Attorney General.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to McConnell, saying “it’s not done” and accused the majority leader of “whitewashing” Trump’s conduct and attempting to protect the President from accountability.
“The leader says, ‘Let’s move on,’” Schumer said following McConnell’s speech. “It’s sort of like Richard Nixon saying let’s move on at the height of the investigation of his wrongdoing.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also pushed back against McConnell as she broadly defended Democratic oversight of the administration.
“Just as a matter of observation, that’s just not a fact, the case is not closed,” Pelosi said Tuesday.
2020 Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren read straight from excerpts of the Mueller report on the Senate floor, a decision meant to explicitly to refute McConnell’s speech, a source close to Warren told CNN.
McConnell also argued on Tuesday that the Trump administration has tackled the problem of Russian interference in elections “head-on,” while criticizing the Obama administration’s approach to Russia.
Last year, two former Obama administration officials accused McConnell of failing to properly respond to suspected Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said McConnell “wanted no part of having a bipartisan commitment that we would say, essentially, ‘Russia’s doing this, stop.’” Obama’s former chief of staff Denis McDonough slammed McConnell’s September 2016 joint statement on election security as a “dramatically watered down” response.
McConnell defended himself then, saying “I’m perfectly comfortable with the steps that were taken back then.”
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday the case will be closed “when Congress has finished its legitimate oversight responsibilities.”
“That means letting Congress finish its review of the Mueller investigation,” Warner wrote in a series of tweets. “That means letting the Senate Intelligence Committee finish its bipartisan counter-intelligence investigation, so we can make sure this never happens again.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
CNN’s MJ Lee, Ted Barrett, Ashley Killough, Clare Foran, Sunlan Serfaty, Eli Watkins and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.