Robert Mueller is special counsel no more, but he fired a parting shot during his televised statement that has sent Democrats into a frenzy of calls for impeaching President Donald Trump, whether by accident or by design.
At a remarkable press conference on Wednesday – at which he refused to take questions – Mueller sank the theory that Attorney General William Barr somehow misinterpreted his report, and sent a clear message to House Democrats eager to have him testify about the probe that “the report is my testimony.”
Despite years of work, millions of dollars and near-unlimited powers, Mueller’s special prosecutors found zero evidence of collusion or conspiracy – and absent that underlying crime, no grounds to charge the US president with obstruction of justice, even as they wrote up 240 pages of tortured reasoning as to why they wanted to. Case closed, conspiracies put to bed, lots of people with egg on their face, time for the republic to move on, right?
Did you honestly expect people who have gone all in on a conspiracy theory about Russia somehow “stealing” the election from Hillary Clinton – investing not just the past three years, but their entire political and media capital into it – to give up just because there isn’t a grain of truth in it? Instead, they latched onto Mueller’s carefully weasel-worded declaration:
That was no mere misstep, either. Mueller followed that line up with a passage about how his office did not make a determination whether Trump committed a crime because the standing policy of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) is that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Not their fault, you see, they had no choice.
Except they did, and they had the avenue to make their claim – but chose not to, knowing that Barr would shoot it down, because he disagreed with their interpretation of obstruction laws long before he became AG. But those are details known to lawyers and honest legal analysts, not the propagandists and conspiracy-peddlers who have spent years whipping the American public into a hysteria not seen since the 1950s.
Mueller’s was a weasel statement, worthy of former FBI boss and his personal friend James Comey – who actually admitted to Congress that he hoped to force the appointment of a special counsel by leaking the memos of his meetings with Trump to the press.
It also seems to have been a dog-whistle to Democrats, who have been arguing ever since the Mueller report was published that it totally proved obstruction of justice and gave them the pretext for impeachment. A variety of party luminaries, such as House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-New York), presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), now doubled down on the claim.
What happens next is anybody’s guess: Democrats may hope enough Republicans will break ranks to successfully impeach and convict Trump, though that’s no more likely to succeed than any of the schemes to overturn the 2016 election result so far. Or they might hope that impeachment proceedings will mobilize their voters for 2020. Either way, the opposition party and the media aligned with it are determined to keep flogging the dead horse of Russiagate, hoping it will deliver them victory.
Those who believe Mueller’s mission was to “get Trump” will no doubt be happy with the former special counsel’s last move. But Americans who hoped he would clear the air clogged by endless conspiracy theories have every right to feel disappointed.