Special counsel Robert Mueller III brought closure to his team’s two-year inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He announced the closing of the special counsel as well as his resignation from the Department of Justice “to return to private life.”
As this is the first time that Mueller has spoken publicly, we were able to hear directly his view on important questions affecting the president going forward. Here are three key takeaways from Mueller’s public address:
1) Mueller’s Investigation was never going to criminally accuse the president
Under Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) rules, a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime. This mean’s that Mueller’s investigation into the Trump administration never had any potential to bring a criminal indictment against the president. The investigation could have resulted in criminal charges being brought against members of Trump’s campaign staff potentially. However, Mueller’s team did not uncover evidence sufficient to meet criminal standards against anyone on Trump’s team, either for collusion or for obstruction of justice.
Indictments brought against former Trump campaign manager Paul J. Manafort (mortgage fraud) and Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos (lying to federal agents) were not the result of the special counsel investigation into collusion or obstruction.
2) Mueller is leaving the door open for Congress to pursue impeachment
The legal standard to impeach a sitting president is not as high as would be required to bring a criminal indictment, whether against a former president or anyone one else. Mueller’s investigation does not take a clear position on whether he thinks Congress should move for impeachment. However, he makes it clear that he does not wish to be personally involved in an impeachment proceeding.
Congress could decide to pursue impeachment against the president, and the impeachment question is likely to continue to be debated among Democrats. Senior Republicans in the Senate have been clear that they will quash any effort to impeach the president under the pretense that he obstructed the Mueller investigation.
3) Robert Mueller is making his own decision not to testify before congressional committees
Mueller made it clear that he is making his own personal decision not to testify before Congress and that he is not being directed by President Trump or Attorney General Barr. Democrats have been loudly blaming the president and the attorney general for holding Mueller back from testifying, asserting that Mueller’s unwillingness to come forward was another example of the president obstructing their investigations. This is not the case.