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Courtney not among House Democrats calling for impeachment proceedings

While more than half of the Democrats in the House have indicated their support for impeachment proceedings, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said he supports the gathering of more evidence before coming to a conclusion.

"It's not over because (special counsel Robert) Mueller came and testified," Courtney said during a meeting Thursday morning with The Day's Editorial Board.

Related: Watch and listen to parts of Courtney's interview at bit.ly/DAYvideos.

Mueller's testimony before two House committees on Capitol Hill last week reignited the debate over impeachment against President Donald Trump, who has claimed “total exoneration” in Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

A redacted version of Mueller's 448-page report that came out of that probe was released publicly by the U.S. Department of Justice this spring. House Democrats subsequently issued a subpoena for Mueller to testify before Congress on the report.

A flood of House Democrats have called for Trump’s impeachment following Mueller’s testimony.

The Democratic-majority House recessed last Friday for a six-week summer break without opening impeachment proceedings. That same day, the House Judiciary Committee, led by Democrat Jerry Nadler of New York, filed a 53-page application with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeking documents from the Trump administration, including secret grand jury material underlying Mueller's report.

"That's exactly what I want to see happen ... Nadler and his lawyers are doing exactly the right thing," said Courtney, who brought along his copy of the Mueller report, which is littered with blue post-it notes.

The court petition is among a half-dozen legal actions the House is taking against the Trump administration as part of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's step-by-step strategy of building a case against the president.

The judiciary committee also is preparing to file a lawsuit seeking to compel former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify.

"We're talking about something that is really the crown jewel, which is overturning an election, and you've got to do it the right way," Courtney said.

Democrats would need 20 votes from Senate Republicans to convict Trump of impeachment, Courtney said, and if that effort failed, Trump could use it to his benefit during the 2020 presidential election.

"If it petered out after the impeachment vote, he's certainly not bashful about claiming exoneration," he said.

Looking ahead to 2020, Courtney, one of Connecticut's superdelegates, said he would be waiting awhile before deciding whom to support as the Democratic presidential nominee. Superdelegates are free to support any candidate at the Democratic national convention.

What he’s found in talking to his constituents is that “people are incredibly pragmatic about this election,” he said.

“They really are not putting up these major litmus tests. ... they want to know who can really unify and win critical states like Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin and maybe Ohio,” he continued.

He said voters also are looking for a “return to normalcy” in Washington, and are concerned about the political discourse going on in the country right now.

“We need a candidate who can counter what’s out there,” he said.

j.bergman@theday.com

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