WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump and U.S. lawmakers are away from Washington, but questions about possible impeachment of the president continue to swirl as the White House thwarts multiple investigations led by House Democrats after the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. While the House could impeach, Trump is virtually assured of remaining in office as there is almost zero chance the Republican-led Senate would convict him.
Democrats are using their House majority to investigate Trump and his administration on everything from the treatment of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border to the president's foreign business dealings and tax returns. Democrats also want the Justice Department to release the full, unredacted Mueller report. The White House is blocking them at almost every turn, causing tempers to boil over.
"The Trump administration has taken obstruction of Congress to new heights," said Rep. Jerry Nadler, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
His words were echoed by Judiciary Committee member Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, also a Democrat.
"We have to surmise that this is an absolute lawless behavior by this administration," she said.
The House is taking steps to hold key administration officials in contempt of Congress, but the body has a more potent - and explosive - option: formally leveling charges against Trump, or impeachment.
"What we need to do is at least be on that track and at least be in the process of impeachment," said. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat.
Republicans see Democrats as desperately clinging to a narrative of presidential wrongdoing after special counsel Mueller found no collusion between Trump's inner circle and Russia.
"The Democrats have no plans, no purpose, and no viable legislative agenda beyond attacking this administration," said Rep. Doug Collins, a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee.
And powerful Democratic leaders, among them House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are wary of launching impeachment proceedings, at least for now.
"Impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country. And we can get the facts to the American people, through our investigation. It may take us to a place where it is unavoidable, in terms of impeachment."
Meanwhile, President Trump, sticking to his guns, called on Democrats to "get these phony investigations over with."
Last week, Trump halted consultations with Democrats on a major initiative to modernize U.S. infrastructure until congressional probes are complete.
"You (Democrats) can go down the investigation track and you can go down the investment track - or the track of let's get things done for the American people," Trump said.
Two U.S. presidents have been impeached, most recently Bill Clinton. The impeachment vote sullied Clinton's record but did not lead to his removal from office. The same likely would be true for Trump. Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination all want to oust Trump, but at the ballot box.
"It seems like every day or two, there is another affront to the rule of law ... The best thing I can do to get us a new president is to win the nomination and defeat the president who's there," said Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate, one of more than twenty running to unseat Trump, speaking on ABC's 'This Week' program.
Polls do not show the American people clamoring for Trump's impeachment. Bill Clinton's approval numbers actually rose after House Republicans launched impeachment proceedings against him in 1998.