WASHINGTON -- Democrats who back opening an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump are hoping former special counsel Robert Mueller's appearance Wednesday before two House committees gives the effort a pivotal boost.
Despite a House vote last week to reject opening impeachment proceedings -- a vote widely dismissed as having nothing to do with Mueller's findings -- supporters are continuing to move ahead with a serious look at whether a formal inquiry is warranted.
"We continue doing what we're doing in the Judiciary Committee, reviewing evidence, seeking evidence, seeking fact witnesses, going to court to get our subpoenas enforced," Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told McClatchy.
The future of any impeachment proceeding largely rests with two powerful, unpredictable forces: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats who face tough reelection races.
At the moment, Pelosi and most of those Democrats are carefully avoiding calling for an impeachment inquiry.
They will watch Mueller's testimony for anything that justifies calling for an inquiry.
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The vote last week to move ahead with impeachment proceedings against Trump for "bigotry causing harm to society" came "out of thin air, in a sense. It did not emerge from the Judiciary Committee. It did not enumerate high crimes and misdemeanors. It did not discuss obstruction of justice or contempt of Congress," said Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and House Judiciary Committee member.
Rep. John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat, has supported an impeachment inquiry, but voted to kill the resolution. "It was not a very strong case for impeachment," he said.
The hearing Wednesday before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees will be the first time Mueller will be publicly questioned about his findings.
Republicans need a net gain of 18 seats in 2020 to regain control of the House that they lost last year, when 31 Democrats won in districts Trump carried in 2016. A handful of other Democrats eked out wins last year over GOP incumbents and are being targeted by the Republicans' national campaign arm.