Robert Mueller finally broke his silence. The Special Counsel, who for the last two years has been as vocal as a mime, decided it was time to hold a press conference and clear the air. In ten minutes, Mueller gave his own summary of a 448 page report he submitted to the Department of Justice, and he did not mince his words. There were four major points he made:
- Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election and the Trump campaign benefited from that interference.
- Despite finding multiple instances of obstruction of justice, based on the guidelines set forth by the Office of Legal Counsel, Mueller was unable to indict Trump.
- Contrary to what his boss Bill Barr said in his summary, Trump was NOT exonerated by Mueller.
- It is now up to Congress to do what the D.O.J. couldn't: hold this president accountable.
Legal scholars will no doubt argue over just how powerless Mueller truly was. Some have suggested that he could've defied Justice Department guidelines and indicted Trump anyway. The prevailing sentiment, though, is that Barr or Rod Rosenstein simply would've overridden him and killed the indictment, citing departmental policy, and even if they didn't, the Administration would've challenged his findings in court, leading to a landmark Supreme Court decision that would've rocked the country and established a new legal precedent for generations to come.
Or if Mueller didn't want to go that route - and there's nothing in his resume that suggests he would've - he could've been more definitive in his findings. For instance, instead of writing, "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him," he could have written, "this report concludes that the President engaged in multiple acts of obstruction of justice that, were he not President, would've led to his indictment and prosecution in federal court." Now that would've been definitive. That would've been a finding worth waiting almost two years for.
And, sadly, that would've had the effect of reducing Robert Mueller to the level of James Comey. Face it, regardless of how you feel about how he was treated by Trump, Comey's conduct, both in and out of government, is the very definition of political grandstanding. He overstepped his authority as FBI Director twice during the Clinton email investigation by interjecting himself into the political spotlight; the latter coming just weeks before the 2016 election. That was not only unprecedented, it was inexcusable.
But once he was fired by Trump, Comey added insult to injury by going on a dog and pony tour to peddle his book; a book that was nothing more than a series of self-justifications for his bizarre behavior during the most consequential election of our lifetime. As a result, what was once a distinguished FBI career has now been reduced to a punchline. The man is an embarrassment and a shill. Credit Mueller for not following in his footsteps, for recognizing the limits of his office, and for having the mental discipline not to stray from them.
Maybe that's the reason why, despite Trump's best efforts at impugning his integrity, Mueller's reputation remains intact. He never crossed the line Comey did from prosecutor to judge and jury. He never went down the "no reasonable prosecutor" path. Instead, he carefully laid out the evidence for all to see, and then handed it off to the only agency with the authority to act: Congress. His professionalism harkens back to a time when Washington wasn't paralyzed by bitter partisan divides and things actually got done.
If there's one thing you can fault him with, it's that Mueller truly believes that this Congress, which can't pass a ham sandwich, is actually capable of conducting an impeachment inquiry, but that isn't his problem. He did his job; now it's up to the legislature to do its.
As he stated in his press conference, "The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing." Translation? "You're up, Congress."