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After ‘no collusion,’ Dems consider impeaching Trump for obstruction
The Democrats aren’t giving up on impeachment just yet.
After the release of Mueller’s full, redacted report Thursday, Democrats including House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) are saying that impeachment is an option on the table. And 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called on the House to begin impeachment proceedings on Friday.
Next up: obstruction of justice
While Mueller found no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia, he neither charged nor exonerated Trump of obstruction of justice, and Democrats and the media seized on obstruction as their next best angle against the president.
Democrats claim vindication in Mueller report
The release of Mueller’s report was met with claims of vindication by Democrats who say it paints a damning portrait of Trump, despite Mueller’s decision not to charge Trump with a crime.
In particular, many Democrats are doubling down on a line of attack that they introduced last month when Barr released a summary of Mueller’s investigation stating that no evidence of collusion was found. Democrats immediately fixated on Mueller’s determination to “not exonerate” Trump of obstruction of justice.
According to Mueller’s report, Trump attempted to interfere with Mueller’s investigation and fire the special counsel, but was blocked by close aides. In the end, Trump’s efforts were fruitless.
Democrats quickly seized on Mueller’s obstruction decision, saying it left impeachment on the table. “Even in its incomplete form, the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct,” Nadler insisted.
Mueller leaves impeachment open
Mueller’s decision to neither charge nor exonerate Trump on obstruction was a bizarre and, some say, irresponsible judgment that has exposed Trump to continued attacks. In explaining his reasoning, Mueller deferred to long-standing protocols against indicting a sitting president, but also said he wanted to leave impeachment an option for Congress.
“Apart from OLC’s constitutional view, we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting president would place burdens on the president’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct,” Mueller said.
“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment,” Mueller said. “The evidence we obtained about the president’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Mueller’s more than 400-page report sketches inconsequential “contacts” between the Trump campaign and Russia that Mueller determined did not lead to a criminal conspiracy, and lays out inconclusive evidence related to obstruction. With this in hand, Democrats are now spinning Mueller’s report as a damaging testimony about Trump’s presidency which, while falling short of establishing criminality, raises questions about his fitness for office, they say.
In this vein, Democrats are falsely claiming that Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president while promising to ramp up their own probes. Nadler claimed that Mueller “made it clear he did not exonerate” Trump and that his report was meant to “preserve the evidence” for Congress to continue with their own investigations — as if Mueller’s exhaustive, nearly two-year probe were a mere preliminary act to the real investigation.
Presidential harassment continues
This goal-post shifting was to be expected after Democrats began switching the narrative from collusion to obstruction. Democrats did not accept Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report last month, which stated that Mueller found no evidence of collusion, as they shifted to Mueller’s agnostic ruling on obstruction.
Barr’s release of Mueller’s report Thursday came after Democrats spent weeks accusing him of a “cover-up” in an effort to preemptively damage Barr’s credibility and bring the report’s exoneration of Trump into doubt. Unsatisfied with Barr’s summary, the Democrats demanded Mueller’s full, unredacted report, seemingly with the aim of finding something in it to keep attacking the president.
The Democrats now appear to be doing exactly that. The presidential harassment shows no sign of ending, as Democrats are now seizing on Mueller’s report as support for their claims of criminal or impeachable conduct by the president.
Meanwhile, journalists in the mainstream media are spinning it as proof that their reporting on Russiagate was accurate all along while doubling their attacks on the president. Liberal newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post left out the most important finding of the report on their front pages Friday: no collusion. “MUELLER REPORT LAYS OUT RUSSIAN CONTACTS AND TRUMP’S FRANTIC EFFORTS TO FOIL INQUIRY,” the Times blared.
Dems, media question Barr’s judgment
At Barr’s press conference Thursday, the attorney general calmly responded to hostile questions from reporters insinuating that he acted out of line by making his own decision on obstruction, instead of deferring to Congress.
Journalists and Democrats also took issue with Barr’s sympathetic view of President Trump’s frustration at being investigated for collusion that did not occur and questioned his assertion that Trump, far from obstructing justice, was transparent and co-operative with investigators.
Barr has argued that it would be difficult to prove that Trump intentionally obstructed an investigation into a crime that the president knew did not occur. “As he said from the beginning, there was, in fact, no collusion. And as the special counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks,” Barr said.
In search of guilt
By definition, since Trump was not charged with obstruction, then he was exonerated. It’s not a defendant’s job to prove their own innocence.
But of course, to Democrats, President Trump is just guilty of being himself. They want him out of office one way or another. Democrats are now contesting Barr’s exoneration of Trump and stepping up attacks on Barr’s character and credibility as they pursue further investigation.
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