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Robert Mueller: Clear as Mud on Presidential Obstruction of Justice

Brett Davis

Posted on June 3, 2019 04:35

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A hastily-arranged press conference last week where the former special counsel spoke about his office’s report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was an exercise in contradictions, double standards and fuzzy thinking.

“It is important that the office’s written work speak for itself,” former special counsel Robert Mueller said on May 29, referring to his office’s 448-page report that was released to the public by Attorney General William Barr on April 18. Nevertheless, he proceeded to speak about the report in terms that left many people confused regarding his inexplicable decision to punt on the question of presidential obstruction of justice.

The last sentence of the conclusion of the executive summary of Volume II of the report states, “Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Mueller stuck to that ambiguous story like glue during his press conference.

Follow the “logic” here: Was evidence found that President Trump committed obstruction of justice? There are two possible answers: yes or no.  Mueller seemed to hint he was prohibited from answering “yes” based on an opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel, that a sitting president cannot be indicted. If Mueller could only answer “no” – or make a non-call, which is a de facto “no” – then the nearly two-year, $34 million investigation was pointless.  (If it was pointless, was it just an exercise in making Trump look bad politically?)

Of course, said OLC opinion in no way prevented Mueller from stating that he found evidence Trump had committed obstruction of justice. It simply means the only possible remedy to presidential criminality is impeachment. If Mueller thought the president engaged in criminality, he could have said so and laid out the evidence, thus making a legitimate case for Congress to impeach Trump. Mueller did no such thing.

Furthermore, Mueller’s endorsement of a new legal standard – not not guilty until proven innocent – is reminiscent of James Comey’s July 2016 press conference in which he slimed Hillary Clinton before recommending she not be indicted for her private email server scandal. Both Mueller and Comey are former FBI heads who should know better. Presumably they realize if prosecutors have insufficient evidence and can’t bring charges against someone, the case is dropped. They must also be aware that prosecutors aren’t supposed to damage a person’s reputation for spite. These instances reek of either incompetence or political hackery.



Mueller’s apparent dissatisfaction with the current occupant of the White House in no way justifies turning the U.S. Constitution and more than 800 years of Anglo-American common law on its head. Not only is it intellectually dishonest; it’s also dangerous. If such troubling tactics are allowed to succeed, what’s to prevent Republicans from doing the same to a Democratic president in the future?

Brett Davis

Posted on June 3, 2019 04:35

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