Since Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of the Mueller report, debates about its possible meanings have not only consumed Washington but also social media. The responses of both GOP and Democratic lawmakers are under scrutiny, but one senator whose response has not gone down particularly well with the American people is Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, who appeared to downplay the importance of the special counsel report.
Although Collins criticized the Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential elections as a “serious threat” to democracy, she seemed to downplay the overall significance of the Mueller report. In a remark she made shortly after the release of the report, Collins said that the Mueller report was not an indictment of the president, but presented an “unflattering portrayal” of Donald Trump, who, she admitted, tried many times to thwart the investigation.
“[Trump] was not only very upset by the special counsel’s investigations, but tried several times through intermediaries to end it, and it is an unflattering portrayal of the President,” Collins said, according to Law and Crime.
Twitter users were not pleased with this assessment by Collins, arguing that the very basis of an obstruction charge is an attempt to thwart an investigation. So while Collins may say the Mueller report merely paints the president in unflattering terms, social media users argued that it does something much more — list out the potential instances of obstruction, and consequently make a case for his impeachment.
In total, Mueller pointed to 11 instances of potential obstruction, and also noted that because of a Department of Justice policy, a sitting president cannot be indicted. Mueller clearly states that Trump “engaged in efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation and prevent the disclosure of evidence to it, including through public and private contacts with potential witnesses.”
Many inferred this as the special counsel basically making an impeachment referral.
Impeachment is embedded in Mueller report.— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) April 19, 2019
Mueller: *We* can't accuse Trump of crimes because OLC memo forbids indictment (aka accusation).
OLC: "Only the House of Representatives *has the authority to *bring charges of criminal misconduct* through...impeachment."
Impeachment talk has started again among Democrats with the release of the redacted Mueller report.— NPR (@NPR) April 20, 2019
Many still see that as too politically risky, even though they see President Trump as unfit for office. https://t.co/06XxWRJByP
Attorney Walter Shaub, the former director of the United States Office of Government Ethics, blasted Collins for downplaying the Mueller report, saying that the legislators in the past were made of “sterner stuff.”
“The Republic faces an unprecedented threat from within and the only tepid condemnation this politician can muster is a ho-hum ‘unflattering portrayal.’ Good thing we had legislators made of sterner stuff in the ’40s,” Shaub tweeted in response to Collins’ characterization.
Other Twitter users also slammed Collins for her remark.
I just want us all to take a moment to celebrate the *tremendous courage* it took for Susan Collins to call the Mueller Report "unflattering"— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 19, 2019
While Donald Trump and the White House have claimed that the Mueller report fully exonerates him, House Democrats are conflicted on whether or not to introduce impeachment proceedings. While a Trump impeachment appears unlikely at this stage, the coming few days will be imperative in seeing how the Democratic response to the Mueller report unfolds.