For the first time since assuming the role of special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller testified this Wednesday morning before the House Judiciary Committee and was slated to speak to the House intel panel at noon. Although he has established that he’s not keen on jumping into conclusions beyond those in the final report from his probe, he did bluntly re-iterate early in the morning that President Donald Trump has continued criminal liability.
He told the panel:
‘The president was not exculpated for the acts he allegedly committed.’
To exculpate the president means to declare him innocent in the face of the allegations against him, which range from collusion with the Kremlin in their efforts to tilt the 2016 election in their and Trump’s favor to obstruction of justice as the multiple probes proceeded in the wake of that scandal coming to light. Although he insisted that his investigation didn’t even address “collusion” because “that’s not a legal term,” bluntly asked this Wednesday morning whether Trump could be charged with a crime after leaving office, Mueller replied:
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has also noted as much in the past in the face of issues like the continued scandal surrounding an illegal hush money scheme Trump was involved in while in office targeting women with whom he had affairs. In this case, the same conclusion comes from a more obviously unbiased source with essentially no political stakes in the situation.
In his opening statement to the judiciary panel, Mueller reiterated that his team’s probe into possible presidential obstruction of justice was “of critical importance” in the first place, even after they explicitly concluded they would not bring a criminal charge against the president no matter what because of standing Justice Department precedent against targeting a sitting president in such a manner.
For his part, Trump obviously feels targeted all the same, in the well-established pattern of someone who’s a lot more worried than you’d expect an innocent man to be about a duly proceeding investigation and has got something to hide. He shouted on Twitter that he was not just innocent but “very innocent” (whatever that means) and that Mueller’s team should have investigated the investigators, including himself. It’s unclear how Trump’s proposal for Mueller to investigate himself would have worked, or if the president even thought that far.
Still, he shouted into the void:
‘NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION!’
Mueller’s investigation reached neither of those conclusions.
The president seems to be watching the Mueller hearing closely, having tweeted about it more than half a dozen times before 8:30 A.M. Although there are a large number of issues weighing down his team heading into the 2020 presidential election, the Mueller investigation has sparked numerous, wide-ranging calls for Trump’s impeachment because of issues like the obstruction of justice that the document outlines. Some fear that Trump seeming to get off the hook for his behavior along those lines could open the door for future presidents feeling free to act in the same way.
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