Mueller, Plain and Tall
“America must hear from Robert Mueller” has been the battle cry of some since the release of the Mueller report, and especially since AG William Barr’s testimony before congress. Now America has, and it amounts to a “no comment” by the special counsel.
I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak about this matter. I am making that decision myself—no one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter.
There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself.
The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.
Having successfully run a virtually leak-proof ship in an era that such a feat was thought impossible, I suspect Robert Mueller felt obligated to put a bow on his investigation by, at a minimum, publicly thanking and defending his team, their work, and for their discipline in doing it. Folks who were expecting fireworks should have known better; we have plenty of book on how Mueller conducts himself and there was no way his statement, his only statement, was going to be anything other than by-the-book and professional.
And God bless him for it. Robert Mueller is no more perfect than anyone else, but it is refreshing to have a reliable player on the political stage who does what he is supposed to do, and no more. Knowing everything he did would be parsed, he has elected to let the report speak for itself, and all but warned congress against calling him to testify further. No doubt he has seen the hearings conducted so far, and knowing not only political animals but also several POTUS-seeking candidates would be more interested in making soundbites than conducting a hearing, while Team Red would attack him and his team relentlessly to defend their liege, Robert Mueller wants none of it. Several hours of repetitive “I cannot legally answer that” would make for poor television anyway. Chairman Nadler and other congressional leaders thinking they will make hay of such testimony should probably think twice, as the stalwart Mueller is just as likely to make their own members look bad if they try to go full circus on the savvy veteran.
While some are grousing that the special counsel “punted”, Mueller himself made it pretty clear charging a president with a crime is the work of impeachment, and congress would have to do their own lifting if they go in that direction.
First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting President because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents are available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could now be charged.
And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.
And beyond Department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of an actual charge.
So that was the Justice Department policy and those were the principles under which we operated. From them we concluded that we would not reach a determination – one way or the other – about whether the President committed a crime. That is the office’s final position and we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the President.
Mueller’s been around long enough to know how Washington works, and that the first rule is that the path of least resistance is the one tried first by the powers that be. Since its inception, the Office of Special Counsel was viewed by some to be the silver bullet that would end the Trump Presidency. That was foolish then, and even more so now. The initial reaction by just about every one of substance that Robert Mueller was the perfect appointee has been proven out. He did the job, issued his findings, and now he’s going home, hopeful to be able to at least attend church service without being accosted. What he didn’t do is give anyone – not the president, not congress, not the media, and especially the American people – and easy out. He said it himself:
I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments—that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election.
That allegation deserves the attention of every American.
Whether they pay attention or not, and there will be plenty who do not, is not on Robert Mueller. But he gave them the information to make an informed decision. These are important, serious matters to the country, and deserve serious consideration and responses. Not that we will get that, but it still needs to be said, and Robert Mueller said it.
So for doing the job, not playing the game, and letting the work speak for itself, we should thank Robert Mueller. How he conducted himself will be the only clear-cut, easy part of this whole mess to understand looking back. For that at least, we should thank him.