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After Mueller Report, What Are The Next Steps For Lawmakers?


As you heard, the findings of the Mueller report have ricocheted across the Capitol and the country, as many lawmakers are back in their home districts when the report dropped. The special counsel essentially said it was up to Congress to decide what to do next. And that is the main question - what, if anything, will a divided Congress do? Joining us to discuss the path ahead is lead political editor Domenico Montanaro.

Good morning.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. The Mueller report is public and - at least the redacted version is. And Republicans and Democrats remain as divided as ever. But the ball is now in the House Democrats' court, right? What do we think they'll do when they get back to Washington?

MONTANARO: Yeah, and the reason it's in their court is because everybody's talking about the I word - impeachment - and whether or not that's something that Democrats will go after now, now that we have this Mueller investigation report. And frankly, a lot of Democrats believe the president did abuse his power. They believe that what he did when it comes to those multiple cases of potential obstruction were impeachable offenses.

But they have to consider the politics. And veterans on Capitol Hill know the backlash that Republicans faced in the late 1990s when they impeached Bill Clinton, who left office with a 60 percent approval rating - wound up being. So Democrats are really reticent to do that. What's going to happen now is these investigations - these other investigations will continue forward. Democrats say they want the unredacted Mueller report in full at least to them. They want the underlying documents. Barr is set to testify May 2.

And I think the politicization of Barr has made it more likely that Mueller will have to testify. And Democrats are saying they want him to testify no later than May 23. So I think the person we haven't heard from in more - in two years, really, he will likely have to testify. And these other investigations, they're going to look under all those rocks and see if there's any other things financially that maybe will move Republicans to their side because there's really not going to be impeachment without Republican support.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, well, let's talk about Republican reaction to the report. Not a lot of it, I guess, is what we've seen so far, not a lot of criticism, at least.

MONTANARO: No, what you've seen is a lot of circling the wagon, so to speak, around President Trump, trying to protect him. In fact, you saw Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina, who's the chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate - when the Mueller report dropped, he was in Ivory Coast with Ivanka Trump, with the president's daughter. So he has made a point of more wanting to ingratiate himself with the president and with his family rather than looking more deeply into an oversight role into what the president has done related to obstruction or related to what his campaign's contacts were with Russia. He wants to move on. The most strident or strong response - nuanced response, I guess you could say - from a Republican has been from Mitt Romney, the senator from Utah, who said that he was sickened by the president's behavior. But he's really the only one.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And we've also seen a really interesting reaction from the president, which has shifted over time.

MONTANARO: Absolutely. I mean, you can just see it on - in tweets. I mean, when the report dropped on Friday, and he hadn't quite read it yet, he was still touting no collusion, no obstruction. And then as the news coverage kind of leaked out and continued out, and he started to see what more was in that report and all of these aides who are on the record saying that they had defied the president when he tried to obstruct the investigation potentially on a whole bunch of different avenues, whether it was his White House lawyer Don McGahn - who decided that he would either - he would rather resign than lean on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Robert Mueller.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, with all this focus on the report and what to do next, will this Congress be able to get anything else done, which is really what the American people want to see?

MONTANARO: You know, divided government is supposed to be intended to create compromise. But unfortunately, most Americans think compromise is agreeing with them (laughter). So sure, compromise with me. But really, there isn't going to be a whole lot that they're looking to do legislatively, especially with an election around the corner.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lead political editor Domenico Montanaro, thank you so much.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.