On Wednesday, Robert Mueller surprised the nation with an impromptu morning press conference, offering his first public comments since the release of his report, and resigning as special counsel. In a quotation destined for the history books, Mueller stated that “if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” His remarks stood in contrast to President Trump’s assertions, and those of his Attorney General, William Barr, that the President had been “completely exonerated.”
Backed by a 1973 memo from the Office of Legal Counsel, Justice Department policy precludes the indictment of a sitting president. “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider,” Mueller stated. He added his belief that such an action would be unconstitutional. “The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.” Thus, it would be “unfair” to accuse the president of a crime “when there can be no court resolution of an actual charge.” Mueller refused to testify before Congress. “The report is my testimony,” he stated. He did not take questions afterward.
Mueller pointedly did not use the I-word either, but the morning presser was seen by Democrats as nothing less than a call to arms for impeachment. Several candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination went all in on Twitter, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). Former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), walked a more cautious line. The Democrats’ congressional leadership, however, remained unmoved, preferring oversight of the administration, and believing an impeachment process would be politically costly.
Liberal legal icon Alan Dershowitz called Mueller’s press conference “worse than the statement made by then FBI Director James Comey regarding Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign…Until today, I have defended Mueller against the accusations that he is a partisan. I did not believe that he personally favored either the Democrats or the Republicans, or had a point of view on whether President Trump should be impeached. But I have now changed my mind. By putting his thumb, indeed his elbow, on the scale of justice in favor of impeachment based on obstruction of justice, Mueller has revealed his partisan bias.”
Republicans didn’t seem any more interested in Mueller, or the Russia investigation, Wednesday than they were when it began two years ago. “Special Counsel Mueller confirmed today what we knew months ago when his report was released,” stated Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee. “There was no collusion and no obstruction. . . It is time to move on.” “For me, the case is over,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. On Mueller, Graham added, “Congress should follow his lead.”
As with most current events lately, Mueller’s press conference told the faithful what they wanted to hear, on the left and the right. The President’s supporters remained insistent there was “no collusion” and “no obstruction,” and that the legal case against him was closed. His opponents became ever more vigilant that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership would wake up and begin impeachment proceedings, immediately, if not sooner. Mueller’s investigation may be complete, but it does not yet have an ending.