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Editor's Brief

Fuller Take on Mueller

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29: Special Counsel Robert Mueller walks away from the podium after making a statement about the Russia investigation on May 29, 2019 at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. Mueller said tha... WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29: Special Counsel Robert Mueller walks away from the podium after making a statement about the Russia investigation on May 29, 2019 at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. Mueller said that he is stepping down as special counsel and that the report he gave to the attorney general is his last words on the subject. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 29, 2019 12:49 p.m.

As I mentioned below, when Robert Mueller spoke roughly 90 minutes ago I was out and offline. My initial comments were based on write-ups and clips. I’ve now listened closely to the whole 9 minute presentation. My big takeaway remains the same: Mueller needs to testify because it’s right that he should testify and answer Congress’s questions; and it’s up to them, not him.

But let me address what I think are some pretty significant points.

The entire statement stayed very, very close to the report. But the emphases are significant. Mueller slowed to a crawl noting the key points of his findings: that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges of conspiracy against members of the Trump campaign and that they did not charge the President with obstruction because they were not allowed to do so. On point one the shortcoming was evidentiary; on point two, they just weren’t allowed to.

Mueller briefly sketched out the argument contained in the introduction to volume 2 of his office’s report: they were barred from indicting the President and believed that fairness counseled them not to make an explicit accusation the President could not defend himself against in court. As with the report itself, if you’re paying attention it’s clear that investigators believe President Trump did obstruct justice on multiple occasions and that they could likely prove it beyond a reasonable doubt if they were allowed to do so.

He made clear he didn’t want to testify, which we’ve discussed above. He also went out of his way to say he did not believe Bill Barr acted with any corrupt or malicious intent in slow-rolling the release of the report.

The most consequential part of the statement, however, is likely this line: “And second, the opinion says that the constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrong doing.” In other words, the constitutional process for holding the President accountable for his crimes is impeachment.

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