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Mueller gives a glorious demonstration of what honest, nonpartisan law enforcement looks like

In an era of almost total partisanship in all matters, this was refreshing to me. To others, on either side of the Great Trump Divide, his appearance was no doubt frustrating.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller
Special Counsel Robert Mueller making a statement on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election at the Justice Department in Washington on Wednesday.
REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Mueller Muellered, to the very end.

Robert Mueller’s 9½-minute farewell address this morning, while frustrating to many, was a glorious demonstration of what honest, nonpartisan law enforcement looks like. In an era of almost total partisanship in all matters, this was refreshing to me. To others, on either side of the Great Trump Divide, his appearance was no doubt frustrating. It’s pretty clear that he wasn’t and won’t be guided by their frustration.

Mueller hadn’t spoken publicly in two years, since his appointment as special counsel, and did so today because he is now leaving that office and returning to private life. His farewell statement probably disappointed many on both sides. He clearly gave the lie to Donald Trump’s incessant statements that the report exonerated him. It did not exonerate him. Here’s that passage of Mueller’s statement:

After [completing the] investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.

The introduction to the Volume 2 of our report explains that decision. It explains that under longstanding department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited.

A special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider. The department’s written opinion explaining the policy makes several important points that further informed our handling of the obstruction investigation. Those points are summarized in our report and I will describe two of them for you.

And, Mueller added, Justice Department policy indicates that charging a sitting president “requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

That clearly refers to impeachment as the appropriate process for considering whether a president has committed “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” That confirms, for the zillionth time, that the Mueller report did not provide the current incumbent with “total and complete exoneration,” as Trump tweet-claims incessantly.

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It also puts the onus on the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to decide what to do next. Pelosi has, to date, been reluctant to go into full impeachment mode. She is under considerable pressure to change that stance. Various House committees are seeking additional evidence that might shed light on the suspected criminal acts of the president. Stay tuned on that one. Mueller, I’m quite sure, will stay silent on it.

The full text of Mueller’s statement is here. Please read it for yourself. For those who want Mueller to incriminate Trump, and those who want Mueller to exonerate Trump, it will send you to a dark moon of frustration. Mueller expresses no sympathy for your frustration.

In case you don’t read the whole thing, here’s where Mueller says what he is willing to say about whether he believes Trump committed the crime of obstruction of justice. (Bear in mind: Mueller is describing DOJ policy, which he felt bound to observe. He is not opining on what the Constitution says about impeachment for “obstruction of justice.” He is explaining why he felt, as an appointee of the Justice Department, he could not recommend a criminal indictment against a sitting president for obstruction of justice.) The passage:

The report describes the results and analysis of our obstruction of justice investigation involving the president. The order appointing me special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work.

And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.

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The introduction to the Volume 2 of our report explains that decision. It explains that under longstanding department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited.A special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider. The department’s written opinion explaining the policy makes several important points that further informed our handling of the obstruction investigation. Those points are summarized in our report and I will describe two of them for you.First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could be charged now.

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 — it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.

So that was Justice Department policy. Those were the principles under which we operated. And 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.

Further your affiant saith naught.