Robert Mueller, in the more-than-400-page report on his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, concluded that based on the evidence, he can neither charge nor exonerate President Donald Trump for his involvement. But the report itself generally reads like a roadmap for impeachment proceedings, which could now be carried forward by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, The Atlantic reports.
The special counsel’s report was released on Thursday and comes in at just under 450 pages. In the report, Mueller details not only the specifics of the evidence collected throughout the investigation and his conclusions made based on it, but also provides substantial context around thorny and politically-sensitive issues surrounding his recommendations, or lack thereof, when it comes to pursuing charges against the president and others.
In its hard-hitting editorial written by Senior Editor Yoni Appelbaum, The Atlantic draws a dramatic and heavy conclusion when it comes to the substance of the report.
“There is sufficient evidence that President Donald Trump obstructed justice to merit impeachment hearings,” Appelbaum says.
Mueller himself, within the report, actively articulated his belief that his role was “not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgement,” a stance which largely sets the stage for, regardless of his other conclusions, deferring to Congress on how to proceed. That point of view relies on Mueller’s stated acceptance of a long-standing opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel which has, in the past, advanced the position that a sitting U.S. president is essentially immune from indictment as long as he or she is in office. Taking that stance at face value, Mueller would have little choice but to treat his report not as an indictment of Trump, but as a potential guide for his impeachment.
“What did the president [redacted], and when did he [redacted]?" The Mueller report, @megangarber writes, is that most familiar of things: a conclusion that is thoroughly inconclusive. https://t.co/7hKUcSCw5K— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) April 20, 2019
“Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment,” Mueller wrote in the report. “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.”
Included in that evidence, per the report, are 10 credible allegations of obstruction of justice by the president. Although Attorney General William Barr has indicated since he himself first obtained the report weeks ago that the Justice Department would not be pursuing charges, a Constitutional mechanism for addressing such issues does exist. That mechanism, Appelbaum writes, is impeachment.