Robert Mueller, the stern, tight lipped, former Marine officer and FBI director who served as special counsel investigating the many misdeeds of the so called president, made an unusual public statement today. He had everyone who is paying attention on the edge of their seats.
He said, in his subdued, lawyerly, follower of policy way, that the House should impeach the president.
His statement has a huge hint in it.
A lot of people are focused on this part of his statement: “if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the President did commit a crime.” This is important.
Equally, if not more, important, however, is another piece of his statement. He was very clear, as he has been all along, that the policy of the Department of Justice forbade him to indict the president while he is in office. He repeated that point today: “The introduction to volume two of our report explains that decision. It explains that under long-standing Department policy, a President cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional.”
He’s wrong about the unconstitutional part. Nothing in the Constitution in any way prevents the indictment of a sitting president. But indictment is irrelevant, because the Constitution does clearly articulate a method for removing a criminal president (!), which is impeachment. Indictment, even with a conviction, by themselves, would not cause the removal of the president, at least not directly. One can hope that indictment of a president would result quickly in impeachment and removal, but that is not guaranteed.
But regardless, Mueller is the kind who follows policy, and he makes clear that even a sealed indictment is a violation of the DOJ policy against indicting a sitting president. So he chose not to indict.
He notes two other elements of that policy, and here is where the huge hint comes in:
- First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting President because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents are available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could now be charged.
- And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.
Hint! Hint! Hint!
This is reserved Mueller, follower of policy, saying as loudly as he can that the evidence is there and the House should impeach the so called president.
Remember, since everyone seems to have forgotten, that Nixon produced transcripts of his Oval Office conversations, which transcripts prompted the House Judiciary Committee to vote to impeach him, in response to a subpoena that the Watergate special counsel issued as part of his prosecution of the men who actually undertook the break in at the Watergate hotel, which did not include Nixon himself, to state what may be obvious.
Trump is the unindicted co-conspirator par excellence. He keeps yelling, “no collusion, no collusion, no collusion,” but “collusion” is not the issue. Lawyers — people who actually understand the law and legal procedures, unlike the so called president — do not use that term because it is not a legally meaningful term. Nixon did not break into the Watergate hotel. Other persons did so while acting on Nixon’s behalf. Nixon did try to conceal the connection between the break in and his campaign. That was where he committed the crime.
Before the two bullet points quoted above, Mueller stated, “The order appointing me Special Counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation.” Ahem. Mueller did investigate, and indicted several people, for activities that variously involved illegal interactions with Russians, and/or for lying to the FBI about such interactions. Lying to the FBI is a distinct crime, but it is a crime because it works to obstruct justice. The two are very closely related.
His appointment as special counsel came about as the result of the strong suggestion by James Comey that Trump’s decision to fire Comey as director of the FBI was Trump’s typically ham fisted attempt to stop the FBI’s investigation into one of the first people so to plead guilty to such lying, Michael Flynn. That’s the crime the president appears to have committed repeatedly, the same crime as Nixon committed.
At this point, Trump is skating on his stupidity. The only difference between Nixon’s situation in Watergate and Trump’s situation now is that Trump was too dumb to make a record of his crimes in the form of readily discoverable evidence like the transcripts of Nixon’s Oval Office conversations. That emphatically does not mean that no evidence of Trump’s crimes is available. Bullet point one above is Mueller, in his subdued, tight lipped way, waving his arms at Nancy Pelosi and yelling, “THE EVIDENCE IS THERE! THE EVIDENCE IS THERE!”
If Nancy gets the message, she will begin impeachment hearings post haste.