I awoke Thursday morning mildly pissed off at Robert Mueller. It wasn’t until I was well along on my morning run that I realized why. In his statement to the press, Mueller told us what we already knew. For example, he told us his investigation did not exonerate Trump. Explicitly, he said, “if we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
Furthermore, Mueller explained why he couldn’t say positively that the president did, in fact, commit a crime, when he said, “under long-standing Department [of Justice] policy, a President cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office.” Nevertheless, Bob Mueller did tell us why it was necessary to investigate the President, even if he couldn’t indict him, when he said, “the opinion [of the DOJ’s policy] explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting President because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available.”
Next he implied that it was the Constitutional business of the Congress to indict the President by way of impeachment because the Department of Justice could not, when he said, “And second, the opinion [of DOJ policy] says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.”
So, why am I pissed off? Because what Mueller said was too dry, too dusty, too esoterically academic for most Republicans to understand. Bob Mueller deliberately avoided language that was pointed and emphatic because he knew perfectly well that what he did in fact say would be deliberately twisted by the likes of Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Sanders and regurgitated back to Trump’s idiot base as “No collusion” and “No obstruction.”
Bob Mueller should have said something like this: “Many people have deliberately misquoted the intent of my report to satisfy their political bias. Let me say this in no uncertain terms. My report does not, repeat not, exonerate the President. It is not my business, nor the business of the Department of Justice, to indict him. That question I now leave entirely in the hands of the Congress of the United States. I have given the Congress, in the evidence presented in my investigation, all they need to impeach Donald Trump. That decision is now theirs.”
Bob Mueller, like most Republicans, is a coward. He decided, like most Republicans have, that being a Republican is far more important than standing up and making a principled, emphatic pronouncement that everyone understands and can be understood in only one way. These days not many people want to be an Edward R Murrow and announce to the world that red-baiting is wrong. Few have the guts to be a Katharine Graham and defy a corrupt and evil administration and say “No!” – even if it means going to prison. Nobody wants to be a Walter Cronkite and stand up and declare that the President of the United States should resign.
We understand. That would require courage. Besides which, Edward R Murrow, Katharine Graham and Walter Cronkite were all Democrats.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.