WASHINGTON, May 29, 2019 — Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s first public statement in two years appears to have moved House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler in the direction of beginning impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
In his Wednesday statement announcing the end of his tenure as Special Counsel, Mueller said that he and his colleagues would have explicitly stated that President Trump had not committed a crime if it were possible to do so, but could not consider whether to charge him with a crime because his office was bound by a Justice Department policy which forbids indicting a sitting president for committing a federal crime.
Mueller also made an indirect reference to Congress’ power of impeachment by noting that the Constitution “requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”
While offering his first reaction to Mueller’s remarks while speaking at his New York City district office, Nadler warned that “all options are on the table” with regard to impeachment, and that “nothing should be ruled out.”
He proceeded to cite Mueller’s findings in a statement containing his harshest condemnation of Trump’s conduct to date.
“What Special Counsel Mueller said loud and clear today for the American people is that President Trump is lying when he says no collusion, no obstruction, and that he was exonerated,” he said before adding that Mueller made clear that he would have said President Trump had been exonerated if that had been the case.
“Instead the Special Counsel makes clear that obstruction of justice, which he found substantial evidence of, is a serious crime that strikes at the core of our justice system,” Nadler said.
“The Constitution points to Congress to hold the President accountable for his misconduct. That’s exactly what we will do.”
While Nadler appeared to move towards those Democrats who favor launching a formal inquiry into whether to impeach President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s response to Mueller’s statement took a less aggressive tone.
“Special Counsel Mueller made clear that he did not exonerate the President when he stated, ‘If we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.’ He stated that the decision not to indict stemmed directly from the Department of Justice’s policy that a sitting President cannot be indicted,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday in a statement.
“Despite Department of Justice policy to the contrary, no one is above the law – not even the President.”
Congress “holds sacred its constitutional responsibility to investigate and hold the President accountable for his abuse of power,” and “will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy,” Pelosi said. “The American people must have the truth.”
Meanwhile, Trumpworld figures continued to alternate between echoing Trump’s claim that Mueller’s report had exonerated him, and suggesting that Barr had properly determined that he had not obstructed justice.
“[Mueller] couldn’t make a determination on whether or not there was obstruction, which means it was up to the Attorney General,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday as she returned to her office after appearing on Fox News.
When asked about Mueller’s assertions that he and his team did not consider charging President Trump with a crime because of Justice Department policy, and that the Constitution “requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,” Sanders acknowledged that Congress had a role to play — in theory.
“Certainly the process would be for Congress, but that’s not necessary because it’s already been done,” she said before arguing that Congress didn’t need to weigh in because Attorney General William Barr — a proponent of the “Unitary Executive” theory of presidential power which states that the President cannot obstruct justice — had determined that Trump did not violate any laws.
When asked if Congress had exonerated Trump from any allegations of wrongdoing, Sanders offered what appeared to be an example of circular logic.
“We think the President has been fully and completely exoneration based on the fact that was no collusion, there was no conspiracy, and there was no obstruction.”
Sanders’ claims were echoed by Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, who, in a statement texted to BeltwayBreakfast, said Mueller’s announcement that he’d concluded his work and would return to private life “puts a period on a two year investigation that produced no findings of collusion or obstruction against the President.”
Sekulow chose to ignore Mueller’s implication that Congress was the only body that could determine Trump’s guilt or innocence, instead asserting that Attorney General Barr had “conclusively determined that there was no obstruction by the President.”
“In the words of Attorney General Barr: ‘the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct,’” he said.