May 30, 2019

Mueller Speaks

“Special counsel Robert Mueller said Wednesday that charging President Donald Trump with a crime was ‘not an option’ because of federal rules, but he used his first public remarks on the Russia investigation to emphasize that he did not exonerate the president.” AP News

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From the Left

The left is calling for an impeachment inquiry and urging Mueller to testify in front of Congress.

“The [Mueller] report chronicles how Trump fired the FBI director, tried repeatedly to push out other Justice Department officials, tried to shut down the Russia and Flynn probes, tried to fire Mueller, praised witnesses who didn’t cooperate with Mueller, and attacked a loyalist who did… [Mueller said on Wednesday] that he concluded that he wasn’t even allowed to consider charging the president with a crime… [he also said] that he doesn’t have ‘confidence’ that Trump ‘clearly did not commit a crime.’ So, you know ... connect the dots, I guess?
Andrew Prokop, Vox

“Put it all together and Mueller was saying: Russia interfered in our election. Trump obstructed that investigation. Mueller’s office could have said Trump didn’t commit a crime, but did not reach that conclusion. The ball is in Congress’ court. This is as close to a call for Pelosi to begin impeachment proceedings as we are likely to hear from someone as circumspect as Mueller, and it makes Pelosi’s foot-dragging not just untenable but a dereliction of her constitutional duty.”
Richard L. Hasen, Slate

“You may note that the subject which the Democrats are claiming they need to investigate further before initiating impeachment—whether Trump committed obstruction of justice—is something that Mueller addressed via a two-year inquiry that culminated in a 448-page report… One suspects, then, that the issue the party is really interested in is whether public hearings involving Mueller and various obstruction-adjacent ex-administration officials would affect the polls which say that most voters don’t support impeachment… In other words, talking about accountability may be the order of the day, but actual accountability is not yet on the table.”
Ben Mathis-Lilley, Slate

“Mueller hardly delivered the resounding closing argument the voting public might have required… Perhaps the only thing that will break through… is the sound of Congress stiffening its collective spine after weeks of incoherent claims that the nation is in the grip of a constitutional crisis of unprecedented proportions about which it does not intend to act. With Republican Rep. Justin Amash already there, the question is whether this moves congressional Democrats, who hold the majority, or if they will instead settle for strong feelings about infrastructure.”
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

Regarding his reluctance to testify in front of Congress, many lament that “Mueller is a man out of time. This is the age of alternatively factual tweets and sound bites; he’s a by-the-book throwback who expects Americans to read and absorb carefully worded 400-page reports. Has he met us?”
Ken White, The Atlantic

“It’s difficult, of course, not to sympathize with Mueller’s view that having written this all down clearly in a report and then said it should mean he shouldn’t have to say it again before Congress… But that’s not how the world works. Mueller says it’s Congress’s job to determine what should be done, not the DOJ’s. Congress is political, and fundamentally, you can’t take the politics out of politics… media coverage matters… Live video matters — and Wednesday’s statement just drives that home.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

Some note that “confusion persists about Mueller's labored explanation for why he felt constrained to say — flat out — whether Trump committed obstruction. Mueller repeated an analysis that because Justice Department rules prohibit a sitting president from being indicted, it would be ‘unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.’ But if fairness is a key consideration, is it fair to leave the president under a cloud of double-negative suspicion? Among the other questions we'd like to hear Mueller address: Does he think the nation needs a new process for investigating sitting presidents? Why wasn't Trump subpoenaed to testify in person?”
Editorial Board, USA Today

In an open letter to Mueller, Robert De Niro writes that Mueller’s silence has “allowed the administration to use its own voice to control the narrative… you said that your investigation’s work ‘speaks for itself.’ It doesn’t. It may speak for itself to lawyers and lawmakers who have the patience and obligation to read through the more than 400 pages of carefully chosen words and nuanced conclusions [but not to the public]... You’ve characterized the report as your testimony, but you wouldn’t accept that reason from anyone your office interviewed… And if, in fact, you have nothing further to say about the investigation, for your public testimony, you could just read from the report… You are the voice of the Mueller report. Let the country hear that voice.”
Robert De Niro, New York Times

From the Right

The right is critical of Mueller, arguing that his statement was inappropriate and went beyond his role as a prosecutor.

The right is critical of Mueller, arguing that his statement was inappropriate and went beyond his role as a prosecutor.

“Last I heard, a prosecutor’s job involved determining whether sufficient evidence exists to charge someone with a crime—not whether there’s sufficient proof of innocence. The insertion of ‘not’ in Mueller’s statement… turns American jurisprudence completely on its head.”
Marc Giller, The Resurgent

“Our system of justice in America is designed to protect the innocent. This is why there are laws that prevent disclosure of grand jury testimony and even more expansive rules at the Justice Department that prohibit prosecutors from disclosing derogatory information about uncharged individuals. It is, in a word, unfair to smear people who have not been charged with anything. Mueller was well aware of this…

“In the case of a sitting president, wrote Mueller, ‘The stigma and opprobrium could imperil the President’s ability to govern.’ Ironically, the special counsel then proceeded to ignore his own warning. He produced his own ‘dossier’ on Trump that was filled with suspicions of wrongdoing… He refused to make a decision to charge the president in a court of law but was more than willing to indict him in the court of public opinion.”
Gregg Jarrett, Fox News

Mueller “has distorted the critical role of a prosecutor in our justice system… No responsible prosecutor should ever suggest that the subject of his investigation might indeed be guilty even if there was insufficient evidence or other reasons not to indict. Supporters of Mueller will argue that this is not an ordinary case, that he is not an ordinary prosecutor, and that President Trump is not an ordinary subject of an investigation. They are wrong. The rules should not be any different.”
Alan Dershowitz, The Hill

Mueller offered “an invitation to impeachment. But that’s not Mueller’s job. He is a member of the executive branch. He is not an independent counsel. He is not a legislative investigator. A criminal investigation that cannot possibly result in charges is a conflict in terms. Mueller never should have agreed to such an investigation under the law, and Mueller’s own standard makes that clear…

In fact, he pulled a James Comey: he effectively indicted Trump for supposed non-crimes publicly, the same way Comey did Hillary Clinton… It’s not Mueller’s job to exonerate anyone. It’s his job to prosecute or not prosecute. Instead, he told everyone that Trump might be prosecutable, but he couldn’t really say, but still, there might be impeachment available.”
Ben Shapiro, Daily Wire

Mueller “did decide there was insufficient evidence on collusion, so he obviously did not understand the guidance to forbid him from rendering judgments on the sufficiency of the evidence… [So he] can be fairly understood to be saying he believed President Trump committed obstruction of justice… and, for good measure, he added that in our system it is for Congress to take action against a sitting president. From that premise, the hardline anti-Trump Left will now argue that if Congress does not act, it is shirking its duty and placing the president above the law… Mueller’s statement was a boon for pro-impeachment Democrats.”
Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review

“Mr. Mueller would have better served the country and his own reputation if he had simply done what he claimed he wants to do and let his report speak for itself. Instead he has weighed in for the Democrats who want to impeach the President, though he doesn’t have to be politically accountable as he skips town. This is the core problem with special counsels who think they answer only to themselves.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Some argue that “America is fighting over the application of a terribly drafted and overbroad law [regarding obstruction of justice]… Think of the breadth of this interpretation of the law. You can take actions completely within your power as a citizen, employer, or public official and still be prosecuted for them if a prosecutor deems your motivation to be subjectively ‘immoral’ or ‘wrongful.’…  

“Two of the three stated grounds for indictment relate directly to the president’s exercise of his lawful powers — the alleged effort to fire Mueller and his alleged effort to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation… Trump’s conduct is scandalous, no question. But so is the law. It places too much power in the hands of prosecutors and the courts, and it gives citizens — even presidents — inadequate definitions of prohibited conduct. The raging debates you read today are in part the product of a flaw in the system, a defect in the law that virtually no one will have the energy or interest to change.”
David French, National Review

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