WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean spends a lot of time with the Mueller Report.
She’s got marked-up copies around her congressional office, keeps one at home and often hauls a bound version around with her in the black backpack she carries.
Last Wednesday, she spent a chunk of her morning leafing through the 448-page document again over coffee.
It was the day after U.S. House Democrats announced that former special counsel Robert Mueller had agreed to testify before two House committees on July 17 about his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Dean — a Democrat who represents the Montgomery County-based 4th Congressional District — is among those who will soon get a chance to grill Mueller on his findings.
She’s strategizing about how to maximize her time, which will likely only be a few minutes.
“It’s a big deal, and it’s just so important for the American public to hear from Mr. Mueller after two years of investigation of really serious things,” she told the Capital-Star in an interview in her Washington, D.C., office.
She’s pretty certain she’ll focus on Volume 2 of Mueller’s report — the section that addresses whether President Trump obstructed justice.
“I want to ask him specifically to try to bring … what he found, to light,” she said. “A lot of the American people don’t even know that there’s very palpable elements of obstruction … in the behavior of the president and the people around him.”
The freshman Pennsylvania lawmaker plunged immediately into impeachment turmoil when she arrived on Capitol Hill in January.
That’s helped her elevate her profile more quickly than most first-term lawmakers in Congress. She’s in the spotlight when the committee holds hearings on things like the Mueller report, Trump’s contentious immigration policies and gun violence.
And she’s a frequent guest on cable news shows, where she’s often asked to describe House Democrats’ pulse on impeachment politics.
Dean, a lawyer and former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, also serves on the Financial Services Committee.
She was prepared to be at the center of House Democrats’ battles against the Trump administration when she asked to join the Judiciary panel.
“I knew it would be one of the committees of prime jurisdiction for oversight,” she said.
Dean is one of dozens of House Democrats who have now publicly called for launching a Trump impeachment inquiry. She’s joined by 5th District U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, her friend and fellow freshman Democrat from Pennsylvania, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee.
If the House ultimately impeaches Trump, both Dean and Scanlon could potentially be on a team of Democrats that makes the case to the U.S. Senate to oust the president from the White House.
Pennsylvania Reps. Mike Doyle, Brendan Boyle and Dwight Evans have also said they back the first step toward impeachment proceedings.
‘I want leaders that are role models. We don’t have that’
Dean is outraged by what she called Trump’s “extraordinary pattern of indecency” and “utter disregard for the rule of law.”
But her fury goes well beyond the findings of the Mueller report.
“Every single day there’s a new scandalous thing that this president is guilty of. Think of the allegations of this past weekend,” she said, pointing to writer E. Jean Carroll’s sexual assault allegations.
“A woman who describes a sexual assault –she doesn’t want to call it rape, but by many definitions rape of her — and what did the president say in response? ‘She’s not my type,’” Dean said.
“So does that logically conclude that the president does have a type of woman that he would target to rape? It’s stunning. Stunning. I have a granddaughter. I want a president, I want leaders that are role models. We don’t have that.”
Trump said Carroll was “totally lying,” as he denied the allegations of violence in a department store dressing room in New York more than two decades ago.
Back in her district, Dean thinks there’s been a “tipping point” toward supporting impeachment proceedings.
At the local barbershop and grocery store, “person after person — and I know some are Republicans — some say to me, ‘I’m a Republican but you cannot let this man’s behavior stand, you have to do something.’”
At a town hall held in late May at Montgomery County Community College, some of Dean’s constituents braved torrential rains and tornado threats to ask her about her impeachment stance. The event came just hours Mueller made rare public comments, declaring that his two-year investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election had not cleared Trump of any wrongdoing.
“I explained my decision to call for an impeachment inquiry,” she said. “The room applauded. I’d say 95-plus percent of the folks in there applauded, so I think that’s a very unscientific poll.”
Asked whether she thinks the House will impeach Trump, Dean said frankly, “I have no idea.”
Some other Democrats — moderates who flipped Republican seats in particular — have been wary about occupying too much time talking about impeachment. Opinion polls show Americans are deeply divided over whether to take steps toward attempting to oust the president. Some consider the entire exercise a waste of time, given the fact that Republicans control the U.S. Senate.
But Dean doesn’t buy the argument that the House shouldn’t proceed because the Senate might not act.
“We don’t know what the Senate will do when all the evidence or as much of the evidence as we can possibly muster is out,” she said. “The American people and therefore senators might be persuaded that we have no alternative but to impeach.”
Ultimately, she said, “I don’t make the political calculation.”
But for her personally, “I feel an utter duty, a patriotic duty, an obligation to hold [Trump] accountable.”