The New Republic - July 24, 2019

"... The other obvious remedy to a sitting president’s criminal behavior would be impeachment. No member of Congress directly asked Mueller whether he thought the House should begin those proceedings against the president. They did not need to. It’splainly obviousfrom his report’s structure and contents that it’s meant to serve as a roadmap for the House of Representatives to hold Trump accountable. Mueller personally hinted at that possibility in his May press conference, where he declared that the 1973 OLC opinion “says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal-justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

Even before Robert Mueller’s appearance before Congress on Wednesday reached the halfway point, some in Washington concluded that it was a major setback for impeaching President Donald Trump. “So far, this hearing is not revealing new ground, perhaps making it less memorable than it might otherwise be,” The New York Times’ Adam Goldman wrote on the newspaper’s liveblog. “By tomorrow it could be forgotten in this frenetic news cycle.” His colleague Maggie Haberman concurred, “Adam, I think you’re being generous with ‘by tomorrow.’”

Other D.C. reporters agreed. “Those who wanted to begin impeachment proceedings needed bombshells from the former special counsel,” Politico’s Playbook newsletter asserted. “Mueller gave them nothing besides affirmation about what was in his report, and a series of sidesteps when he did not want to answer questions.” Chuck Todd, the moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, concluded that Mueller’s low-key, constrained testimony was a “disaster” because House Democrats were looking for a “dramatic moment that would capture the imagination.”

The focus on congressional theatrics and his demeanor misses the point. In substantive terms, the former special counsel in the Russia investigation affirmed several key interpretations of his report and its findings. He also said nothing that diminished his reputation for impartiality and professionalism, hewing instead to his legally defined role. While the political press was busy lamenting that Mueller didn’t break character and accuse the president of impeachable crimes, it missed the news: Mueller, in his own way, underscored the case for Trump’s impeachment.

Mueller’s evasiveness frustrated members from both parties. He declined to answer dozens of questions about the particulars of his report, the sprawling legal proceedings that surround it, or any conclusions that he didn’t write down himself. Some of the opacity was beyond his control. The Justice Department notified him earlier this week that it would assert privilege over just about everything not in the report. Some of the legal proceedings sparked by his inquiry are still ongoing, including the forthcoming trial of Trump associate Roger Stone. Other refusals seemed to reflect a desire to avoid idle speculation or becoming a pawn of Congress’ relentless partisanship. ...
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