WASHINGTON — If U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith’s kids spoke like President Trump, he’d “fuss at them,” he told the Virginia Mercury this week.
“I’ve always said that the president and I use different language. I would have said things differently than he did,” said Griffith, a Republican who represents the 9th District, when asked about the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller’s redacted report into Russian election meddling included some embarrassing depictions of the president’s behavior. When he learned that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate him, according to the report, Trump said, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.” The report also failed to clear the president of obstructing the investigation into Russian election meddling.
Trump tweeted the day after the report’s release that it included statements about him that were “total bullshit.” The president and his allies have simultaneously seized on the report (and Attorney General Bill Barr’s initial summary of it before it was released to the public) as total vindication and at the same time claim that it is riddled with errors.
Griffith said of Mueller’s findings, “As far as anything other than language and stylistic points, no, I’m not bothered.”
Griffith and other Republicans are rallying around the president as the fight over Mueller’s investigation has reached a fever pitch on Capitol Hill. Some Democrats, meanwhile, are clamoring for impeachment proceedings against the president and the ouster of his top officials.
For Griffith, the bottom line is, “actions speak louder than words,” he said. “He was frustrated, I understand that.” And ultimately, “he didn’t fire the people who didn’t do the things when he was frustrated, doing a verbal kick of the chair sort of thing. And when they didn’t take action on that, he didn’t fire those people. He didn’t fire Mueller. He may have talked about it at some point, but he didn’t do it.”
Meanwhile, Virginia Democrats are beating the drum for further investigations.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th) told the Mercury in January that it was premature to be discussing impeachment. He said it wasn’t a useful topic at the time for Democrats who had just reclaimed the House majority.
But Connolly said this week, “I think the Mueller report has caused a number of my colleagues to reassess that.”
He stressed, “That’s not the same as saying they’re ready to impeach.” But Mueller “made it quite clear they had not concluded that the president was exonerated or innocent of obstruction of justice. That’s an extraordinary finding and very troubling,” Connolly said.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-3rd), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, also called for more investigations, criticizing claims from the president and his allies that the report cleared Trump of wrongdoing.
“The next step is to establish with clarity what’s actually in the report,” Scott told the Mercury. “If you read the report, no collusion, no obstruction is an absurd conclusion.”
If impeachment proceedings were to occur, the “process has to be bipartisan,” Scott said. He wants more hearings about the contents of Mueller’s report. “We’ll see what happens after that.”
The White House has retaliated against the increased scrutiny, vowing to fight subpoenas and refusing to make top officials available to testify.
That’s putting members of his administration in legal jeopardy, Connolly warned.
Congress is “now faced with the decision by the president to direct his administration across the board to defy legally constituted, legally issued subpoenas. That is an assault on the legislative branch of our government and it cannot be tolerated,” Connolly said.
“If the president does not relent, he is putting many members of his administration and former members of his administration in grave legal peril.”