Washington: Democratic presidential candidates ratcheted up the pressure on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to start the process of impeaching President Donald Trump after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s first public comments on his two-year Russia probe.

Several Democratic candidates for the White House interpreted Mueller’s remarks as encouraging the Democratic-led House of Representatives to determine whether Trump tried to derail the probe and should be impeached. “In essence, he said ‘We did not exonerate the president’,” US Senator Kamala Harris of California said to loud applause at a campaign event in Greenville, South Carolina.

Pelosi has resisted calls from progressive members of her caucus to move forward on impeachment, arguing it could damage Democrats politically in advance of the November 2020 presidential election. Speaking at an event in San Francisco, Pelosi urged caution, noting that only a minority of Democrats in the House have called for impeachment. “We want to do what is right and what gets results,” Pelosi said. Still, after Mueller spoke, US Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York actively advocated impeachment for the first time.

Both previously were more restrained, criticising the Trump administration for stonewalling congressional subpoenas and suggesting that continued obstruction could eventually lead to impeachment. “Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear: Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately,” Booker wrote on Twitter soon after Mueller finished speaking.