For the first time since his appointment to the Special Counsel in May 2017, Robert Mueller spoke publicly this morning. He was extremely nervous at first. Although his anxiety subsided, it remained visible throughout his remarks. (A video of his full remarks appears below.)
First, he told viewers that the Office of the Special Counsel was formally closing and that he was resigning from the Department of Justice to return to private life. He also said this is the last time we will hear from him about the case.
But after the explosion his remarks unleashed, I seriously doubt that.
Early on, he uttered a platitude about a person being innocent “unless and until proven guilty.” Then, he went in for the kill.
In this morning’s statement, Robert Mueller succeeded in ripping off the bandaid and sticking the knife into the wound.
Although he said it in more eloquent language, he basically told Americans that if they had found the president did not commit a crime, they would have said so.
If we take the inverse of that, since they did not tell us the President did not commit a crime, does it mean that the President did commit a crime?
He gave the impression that, although there may very well have been a prosecutable case against the President, current law and DOJ rules do not allow them to indict a sitting president, so they couldn’t go there. That was why they didn’t draw a conclusion about obstruction lest anyone think they simply didn’t have sufficient evidence.
This was about Robert Mueller getting back at Trump for his order to declassify documents last week and breathing new life into the dying narrative that the President obstructed justice. He also used the occasion to redeem himself in the eyes of fellow Democrats for failing to find Trump guilty of a crime in his original report.
Otherwise, it was unnecessary and unwelcome.
The DOJ’s announcement of Mueller’s 11 am address was especially surprising due to its rarity. Mueller has been involved in negotiations with Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, over whether or not he will testify before lawmakers. Today, Mueller seemed to indicate that he does not plan to appear before Congress.
On Tuesday, Washington was abuzz over the claim in a new Michael Wolff book that Mueller had drafted an indictment for obstruction of justice against President Trump. Mueller issued a statement through his spokesman, Peter Carr, in which he strongly denied the claim. Carr said, “The documents described do not exist.”
After hearing Mueller’s statement, Wolff’s claim seems all the more believable.
The odd thing is that Wolff was especially specific about the document. According to The Guardian, which claims to have obtained a copy of it, “Mueller’s office drew up a three-count outline of the president’s alleged abuses, under the title “United States of America against Donald J Trump, Defendant.”
The first count, under Title 18, United States code, Section 1505, charged the president with corruptly – or by threats of force or threatening communication – influencing, obstructing or impeding a pending proceeding before a department or agency of the United States.
The second count, under section 1512, charged the president with tampering with a witness, victim or informant.
The third count, under section 1513, charged the president with retaliating against a witness, victim or informant.
According to Wolff, the document sat on the special counsel’s desk, for almost a year.