By Brad Swanson:
Robert Mueller isn’t speaking in code or legalese when he practically begs Congress to impeach Pres. Trump.
In fact, the special counsel says it in plain English in just eight pages of his 448-page report — the introduction to Volume II, which deals with the question of obstruction of justice by the president.
Mueller opens by telling us clearly that he has no authority to indict Trump, since he is an employee of the Department of Justice and DOJ policy is not to criminally prosecute a sitting president.
Doing so “would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions,” says Mueller, quoting an internal DOJ legal opinion.
Does that mean a president can obstruct justice with impunity? No way, says Mueller. “The Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice.”
But if not DOJ, then who can administer this punishment? Congress. The role of Congress is to “apply the obstruction laws to the President ‘s corrupt exercise of the powers of office.” This “accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”
After telling Congress it has the power to act, Mueller hands over the ammunition Congress needs to impeach Trump for obstruction of justice.
He details a series of actions by Trump that appear to have only one purpose — to derail his investigation. These include, in Mueller’s words, “public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation.”
In case any reader is still not getting his point, Mueller points out that he does have the authority to make a judgment that Trump is innocent – but “based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.” It’s a head-slapping moment.
The question now is what Congress will do with the case that Mueller has built and handed over for action.
The short-term political consequences of impeaching in the Democratic-controlled House, knowing that the Republican-controlled Senate will not sustain it, are difficult to predict. Trump may emerge stronger, with a unified Republican party behind him. Or he may appear as damaged goods to the electorate in the upcoming contest.
But the larger issue is clear – Congress has not only the power but the responsibility to hold the president accountable for crimes, since the Justice Department, as part of the executive branch, will not prosecute its own.
If the Democrats do not even take the first step of impeachment in the House, this will embolden the current and future presidents to exercise ever more extreme authority. The gap in power between branches that are meant to be co-equal, already broad, will widen further in favor of the executive.
The right thing for our country is to give the president his day in court after all, starting with impeachment proceedings in the House. Anything less is a betrayal of our Constitution, which is already under attack in this administration as never before.
Mueller couldn’t have said it more clearly if he’d written it across the sky.
“ Congress, I’ve done my duty. Your turn.”
Brad Swanson is the editor of The Blue View. He is writing as an individual