Mueller: “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

"If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

Mueller stopped one inch short of saying “Trump is a criminal” in his rare comments to the press on Wednesday.

Mueller produced massive evidence that President Trump committed Watergate-scale obstruction of justice in office. But Department of Justice policy prevented him from charging a sitting president with a crime, and Mueller reportedly believes he can’t openly state that this policy prevented him from accusing Trump of crimes. Mueller views his job as sending his evidence to Congress without prejudice, where the impeachment mechanism serves as a substitute for the jury trial that such crimes would normally call for.

Trump, William Barr, and the Republican Party followed a strategy of systematically lying about this. Barr repeatedly suggested that Mueller, rather than being unable to charge Trump with crimes, simply didn’t have enough evidence of misconduct to make up his mind. By all indications, the conservative intelligentsia has failed to read the report and believes the misleading spin emanating from the president and his loyal attorney general.

Shortly after Mueller finished speaking, National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke complained, “Investigators are supposed to look for evidence that a crime was committed, and, if they don’t find enough to contend that a crime was committed, they are supposed to say ‘We didn’t find enough to contend that a crime was committed’ … If a person doesn’t have enough evidence that someone committed a crime to contend that a crime was committed, he is obliged to presume his innocence.”

Of course. But the explanation for this apparent paradox, which apparently hasn’t crossed Cooke’s mind, is that Mueller does have evidence that Trump committed crimes. Pages and pages and pages of evidence, in fact.

And as silly and basic as his error may be, fellow conservatives followed the same fundamentally mistaken premise. “By implying that President Trump might have committed obstruction of justice, Mueller effectively invited Democrats to institute impeachment proceedings,” writes a stunned Alan Dershowitz. “Obstruction of justice is a ‘high crime and misdemeanor’ which, under the Constitution, authorizes impeachment and removal of the president.”

Right. Mueller found clear and extensive evidence that Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

“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,” Mueller says in the report.

Mueller also explains that the investigation into possible collusion found that members of the Trump campaign knew they would benefit from Russia’s illegal actions to influence the election, but didn’t take criminal steps to help.

The 448-page report, which includes two volumes and appendixes, paints a starkly different picture than the one laid out by Attorney General William Barr.

Barr said that Mueller’s investigation did not establish a conspiracy with the Russian government and that Mueller did not make a decision on obstruction. But the full report lays out a significantly more complicated picture as Mueller’s team weighed whether to prosecute cases.

Mueller wrote he followed the Justice Department opinion that a sitting President cannot be indicted. But the special counsel report rejected the Trump team’s legal argument that a President cannot commit obstruction of justice, leaving the door open for Congress to continue to investigate Trump.

“With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” the report says.

The facts are the the report found lots of evidence of crimes by the president. However, Mueller decided that it is the job of Congress to act on those crimes.


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