Robert Mueller’s Wednesday morning press conference provided more evidence that President Trump has been right about him all along. After asserting that his final report to the attorney general on Russian interference in the 2016 election “speaks for itself,” and that nothing he or the special counsel’s office would say in future would go beyond that report, he deliberately threw additional fuel on the “obstruction of justice” dumpster fire. Knowing full well that he was providing the headline-of-the-day for the anti-Trump “news” media and a fresh talking point for the impeachment zealots in the House, he said:
As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that … It explains that under long-standing [Justice] Department policy, a President cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view — that too is prohibited.
For all intents and purposes, Mueller accused the President of obstructing justice then hid behind obscure DOJ memoranda to excuse his failure to make that prosecutorial call in his report to the AG. It was an utterly disgraceful performance. First, as anyone who has bothered to read Mueller’s report knows, his reluctance to officially accuse Trump of obstruction was about the dearth of real evidence to support the charge. Moreover, his claim that it is unconstitutional to indict the President is widely disputed by legal scholars. As Jonathan Turley, Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, writes:
If Mueller is going to argue that he felt constrained by Justice Department memos, he was a failure as special counsel. I have argued, going back to my testimony in the Clinton impeachment hearings … Nothing in the Constitution says a president has immunity from criminal charges. Nevertheless, one can accept these memos and still see the illogic in reading them as a bar to reaching conclusions as a special counsel.
In other words, even if one agrees with the DOJ memos, they don’t preclude a special counsel from reaching a finding of criminal conduct. Professor Turley goes on to point out that, by failing to make a prosecutorial decision on obstruction of justice, Mueller abjured his main responsibility as a special counsel, disregarded the federal regulations governing his investigation, and ignored the unambiguous directives of his DOJ superiors — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and (subsequently) Attorney General William Barr. He ignored proper procedures and failed to fulfill his primary function.
So, what exactly was Mueller up to in that Wednesday press conference? Most of the information he provided was already widely known, predictable, or inconsequential. We knew the investigation was closed, and his resignation was not exactly a bombshell. We knew everything he told us about his long, expensive probe, and that he actually seems to think his investigators were of the “highest integrity.” Only one thing stood out about that presser — at least a third of his statement involved obstruction of justice and his team’s inability to conclude with “confidence” that the President is not a criminal.
It was, of course, never a part of Mueller’s mandate to exonerate President Trump. As he himself said on Wednesday, “Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.” Mueller’s job was to find evidence of wrongdoing. He spent 22 months and $34 million to find zero proof of collusion with Russia by Trump or any other American. And, despite mendacious claims by the Democrats and the media, the second volume of the Mueller report contains nothing any honest federal prosecutor would stand before a judge and call “obstruction of justice” in the absence of any underlying crime.
Why, then, did Mueller feel the need to devote so much of his hastily called press conference to an assertion that had already raised eyebrows among countless current and former prosecutors when it appeared in his report to the AG? And why did he belabor the point that his hands were somehow tied pursuant to prosecuting a sitting president. He doesn’t want to testify before Congress, as he made clear in his presser, so this was just one last attempt to insinuate without proof that the Trump has broken the law. And it did whet the appetites of Democrats like House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY):
He reaffirmed what was in the report… which found substantial evidence that Russia attacked our political system, that the Trump campaign benefitted from Russia’s interference, that Trump and the people around him repeatedly welcomed Russia’s support, and that throughout the investigation, Trump sought to obstruct justice and undermine Mueller and the investigation over and over again.
The remarks of the Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), suggest that impeachment is a dead letter in the Senate, which makes the final decision on whether any president is removed from office:
As Mr. Mueller said today, the report speaks for itself. The report shows that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and any member or operative of the Russian government.… As to obstruction, the Mueller team failed to reach a conclusion and turned that task over to the Attorney General.… It will be the final word in my view.
Inevitably, upon his examination of the Mueller report, Attorney General Barr found nothing that warranted an obstruction case against the President. And then-Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, who originally authorized the investigation, concurred. As to Mueller himself, the best news to come out of Wednesday’s presser is that he’s resigning. He spent our money, wasted our time, and proved as partisan as Trump insisted. He has mastered the art of innuendo, however, so he may have a future on cable insinuating that the President was involved in the JFK assassination or kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.