Updated on July 30, 2019 at 2:46 p.m. ET
On its face, Robert Mueller’s testimony last week didn’t seem likely to transform the political dynamic surrounding the impeachment of Donald Trump. The former special counsel offered no dramatic answers or riveting sound bites to galvanize the American public, as Democrats had hoped he would, and he mostly refused to expound on his investigation beyond the conclusions laid out in his 448-page report.
Yet since Mueller’s appearance on Wednesday, more than a dozen House Democrats—and two of their colleagues in the Senate—have been converted: They’ve announced their support for launching an impeachment inquiry into the president. This surge has brought the total number of pro-impeachment Democrats in the House to 107—nearly half of the caucus. Among them are two so-called front-liners, from the group of mostly freshman lawmakers most vulnerable in 2020, as well as a member of House leadership, Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts.
In an interview, Clark told me that, despite the curious timing of her announcement, her newfound support for impeachment wasn’t motivated by Mueller per se. Her chief focus, she said, is protecting the U.S. election system, and she’s dismayed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s recent handling of election-related bills. Statements from other Democrats don’t explain why lawmakers waited until after Mueller’s testimony to announce, but they share a similar theme with Clark’s comments: American democracy is under threat from foreign influence—as emphasized by Mueller’s report and testimony—and the country has run out of options.