Mueller presented case against Trump, now Congress must act
In this March 24, 2019, file photo, Special Counsel Robert Mueller walks past the White House in Washington. | Cliff Owen / AP

No matter how many times Donald Trump and his defense lawyer—sorry, Attorney General, William Barr—may repeat the mantra “No Collusion, No Obstruction,” the reality emerging from today’s release of the Mueller report is that the President of the United States has committed crimes and should face prosecution.

The ball is now in Congress’ court, and it must act.

While the report says Mueller can’t prove the intentions of all the various Trump campaign affiliates who met with Russian intelligence assets trying to tilt the 2016 election in Trump’s favor, it is abundantly clear that those Russian efforts were wildly successful. And it seems obvious from the report that information and encouragement which came from the Trump campaign assisted in that assault on U.S. democracy.

It is also quite apparent from the report that the actions of the president in trying to shut down and interfere with the investigation into those Russian efforts repeatedly crossed the line into obstruction of justice.

Barr has spent the last several weeks, working in conjunction with his boss in the Oval Office, to get out ahead of the damaging information in today’s report, peddling half-truths and outright lies about what Mueller found.

When Trump first learned that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate Russian election interference aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton and helping elect him, his immediate response was, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f*cked.” Hardly the sentiments of an innocent man.

He then proceeded for the next 22 months, as the report shows, to block the inquiry at every turn. He fired FBI Director James Comey. He ordered associates to lie when giving testimony. He intimidated witnesses. He tried to fire the special counsel completely, directing White House lawyer Don McGahn to tell Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that “Mueller had to go.”

Rather than participate in what he characterized as a would-be Saturday Night Massacre (recalling Nixon’s mass firing during Watergate), McGahn instead resigned, telling White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus he couldn’t do the “crazy sh*t” Trump was demanding of him.

It was only the refusal of some Trump deputies like McGahn to go along with his schemes that saved the president from committing even worse offenses. “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” the special counsel concluded.

Mueller lays out all this evidence and more in his 448-page report but does not formally charge Trump with any crime, seeing the indictment of a sitting president as beyond his mandate. But he has given Congress everything it needs to pursue its own probe into Trump’s crimes. He has said it is the legislature’s duty to decide whether to “criminalize…obstructive conduct by the President.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is signaling that he’s ready to take the baton that Mueller is passing, acknowledging that the report outlines “disturbing evidence” that Trump engaged in “obstruction of justice and other misconduct.” He’s already requested that Mueller himself appear before his panel.

If followed to its extreme, the logic of such an inquiry may very well lead to the inescapable conclusion that Trump has committed impeachable offenses. The Democratic leadership in the House, specifically Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has previously said pursuing impeachment is “not worth it” politically, and that it is “too divisive” without bipartisan support.

Given that Trump’s diehard supporters in the Republican Party still control the Senate, where any trial of Trump would have to take place, she’s got a point. And as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., has said, the public will for impeachment has to be built up—“Impeachment is a political question.”

The revelations of the Mueller report today should at least prompt Congressional Democrats to revisit the issue and consider whether that needed political will can be built, as the legal basis for impeachment certainly already exists. At a minimum, there must be a major expansion of the lines of inquiry now being pursued by Congress.

Furthermore, as damning as the Mueller report is, it’s also worth keeping in mind that it really only represents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the corruption and lawlessness of this administration. Ongoing Congressional probes and those by U.S. attorneys will undoubtedly uncover much more—more election interference, more money laundering, more bribery, more wire fraud. Taken together, it all underscores the urgency of the 2020 elections.

For now, what we can conclude is that Mueller has provided the roadmap to prosecution, even if he thought current law prevented him from indicting Trump himself. The report has laid bare the crimes of Trump. The case has been made.

Now, Congress has to take the next step.


CONTRIBUTOR

C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

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