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May 29, 2019 09:56 AM UTC

Mueller: If the President Did Not Commit a Crime, We Would Have Said So

  • by: Colorado Pols

UPDATE: Rep. Diana DeGette responds:


Robert Mueller

Special counsel Robert Mueller today offered his first public comments on his investigation into President Trump and his campaign for President in 2016. Mueller declined to get into many specifics about the work of the special counsel’s office, but what he did not say may be more consequential than anything else, as the New York Times reports:

[Mueller] declined to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice in his first public characterization of his two-year-long investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mr. Mueller said, reading from prepared notes behind a lectern at the Justice Department. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.” [Pols emphasis]

Mueller did not take questions from reporters at an event in which he also announced that he is closing his office and resigning from the Justice Department to return to a private life. But before he finished speaking, Mueller offered some not-so-subtle suggestions about what happens next:

He also said that while Justice Department policy prohibits charging a sitting president with a crime, the Constitution provides for another process to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing — a clear reference to the ability of Congress to begin impeachment proceedings. [Pols emphasis]

Although his remarks closely matched statements contained in his nearly 400-page report, Mr. Mueller’s portrayal of Mr. Trump’s actions was not as benign as Attorney General William P. Barr’s characterizations. While Mr. Barr has seemed to question why the special counsel investigated the president’s behavior, Mr. Mueller stressed the gravity of that inquiry.

“When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Mr. Mueller also stressed that the evidence his team uncovered of Russia’s effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election was a threat to the nation’s political system and “deserves the attention of every American.”

We’ll have more on this story as it develops.


26 thoughts on “Mueller: If the President Did Not Commit a Crime, We Would Have Said So

  1. Mueller was as plain as he could be given the restrictions of the DoJ memo, the policy of not making a determinative statement over figures who could not be charged, and his apparent desire not to politically charge the statement by saying the I word.

    But the message was clear, and it follows on to Rep. Amash's very clear enumeration-by-Tweet of the indictable offenses clearly spelled out in the report itself.

  2. Don't quite know what to make of Muellers' statement.  He was point blank about Russians interfering with the 2016 election but couldn't bring himself to say exoneration, impeachment or collusion regarding obstruction..  About the only thing that was definitive was that the Russians attacked us and won decisively.  Looks like we're screwed for 2020 unless somebody in Congress lights a fire regarding these attacks.

    1. He was clear that he couldn't say those things – that he was bound by policy, legal ethics, and the independent credibility of his investigation (i.e. didn't want to politicize by saying "impeachment") from directly stating that the President committed multiple felonies by obstructing the investigation.

      His report spells out multiple obstruction attempts clearly. He said he could not clear the President of those charges – and it was obvious that this was different than the essential dismissal of conspiracy charges based on insufficient evidence. Given his constraints, I'd say it was obvious.

      1. I think one positive thing it does is escalate the demands by Congress to see the full unredacted report.  If that was his intention that Barr be forced to hand over the complete report to Congressional committees so they can see his findings for themselves then he did an honorable.

        If a president can only by judged by his peers in Congress then Congress should have full access to the evidence to draw their own conclusions without any intervention by Barr.

  3. Mueller's statement that it would be unconstitutional to charge a sitting president is simply not right.  The DOJ position that it cannot indict a sitting president is not supportable.  Would love to see the originalists (a/k/a judges masquerading as bad amateur historians) justify it.  


    1. He didn't exactly say that, though – he said that this was the department's legal standing. And it is. Mueller is bound by the DoJ rules of engagement, and he wasn't going to get a more permissive reading of that policy from the current Administration. So he did what he could: wrote down the offenses in his formal report and said that other Constitutional mechanisms had to be operated.

    2. There are legal scholars who know the law but I think the original intent was that an opposition party couldn't tie up a president's time with frivolous lawsuits or vindictive indictments.  Can you imagine what McConnell would have done with frivolous indictments of Obama.  There is original intent but it is another matter when the sitting president is engaged in ongoing criminal activities including rigging the next election.  Is an indictment warranted or should it be a referral to the deliberative body that can judge the matter.  People will find a way to abuse the system for their benefit regardless of how you adjudicate the matter.  Pick your poison as they say.  I'm on the side of the rule of law and don't have a problem with it being adjudicated by a lawfully delegated body of elected peers.

      1. I take it you are one of those who want to see Trump be the victim/victor this time next year after the Senate totally exonerates him?  Too bad we can't wait a while for the water to heat up.

        1. I think it's time we move on in terminology from "investigations". Mueller all but implored Congress to begin impeachment hearings. The impeachment hearings surrounding Nixon went on for months and changed the minds of enough Senators to cause his resignation. There's not a lot of formal difference between the two, but the messaging is very different.  Pelosi and Dems in the House aren't getting anything done right now; McConnell is blocking everything that isn't strictly necessary too keeping the government barely trolling along. At least the spectacle of having formal open impeachment hearings might turn news coverage.

          HR1 is a set of ideals; it was never meant to pass the Senate. Mentioning it in the context of Mueller is a complete non-sequitur and a waste of a focused media opportunity.

      1. A friend referred to it as Wheel of Fortune where Mueller suggests buying a vowel for _MP__CH. I thought it was more like charades. Regardless, Mueller was a pretty good player, and you have to be a poor player not to catch his meaning.

  4. Meh . . . 

    . . . Like we already knew, yet another statement of total exoneration by Mueller.  How many times you stupid libs gonna’ have to be told??

    (. . . posting for a pfriend pfruit.)


  5. Mueller gives Democrats yet another opportunity to humiliate themselves over phony Russia collusion. I’m sure all the PolCats will dutifully respond.

    Time is short, you must impeach Trump now. Do it now! The Nation is tired of winning.

    1. The Nation is tired of Trump's definition of "Winning".

      My 2018 tax return can attest to that. "Thanks Trump!"  That was snark, if you must know.  

      If my above statement was not meant as snark, I would say so.


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