If you’re disappointed by what now-former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III said in his remarks at the Justice Department on Wednesday, you weren’t paying attention. And pay no attention to the nothing-to-see-here blather from President Trump and the White House in response. He and his administration are in deep trouble.
Mueller stood at a lectern at Justice to announce that his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential obstruction of justice by Trump was done. He also made it clear he had no appetite for testifying before Congress.
“There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself,” Mueller said. “The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
Mueller also said: “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Of all the things Mueller said in his 10-minute statement, that single line is why I want Congress to call the veteran lawman up to the Hill to testify.
If Mueller sticks to his promise to “not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress,” he will have to say the following, which is right there in black and white on Page 2 of Volume 2 of the Mueller report.
“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mueller writes in the report. But here’s what comes next. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.” And then comes the damning assessment that I would love to hear Mueller read aloud. “The evidence we obtained about the president’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred,” Mueller states before delivering the most damaging sentence of all. “Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Most people have never and will never read either volume of the Mueller report. So to have him repeat those words under oath and before the American people — and to have them on a perpetual cable-TV and social media loop — would be powerful. But what Mueller said Wednesday was powerful enough. Even if he never says another word from this day forward, Mueller’s statement put Trump’s presidency in peril. And it made it that much more difficult for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats to delay fulfilling their constitutional duty to start an impeachment inquiry.
As Mueller writes on Page 8 of Volume Two, “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”
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