‘Silent Bob’ finally speaks: the Mueller Report is a referral for impeachment (but I’m not saying that) (Updated)

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Robert Mueller is a U.S. Marine who received a bronze star for heroism in combat and a purple heart for being wounded in Vietnam. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

It is this kind of heroism, bravery and patriotism that America needs from this Marine again, but he has been acting like a wallflower resisting calls to testify in public before Congress about his Special Counsel investigation into the Trump campaign.

Your nation needs you, Marine! Suck it up and testify. It is your patriotic duty.

This morning, Robert Mueller closed up shop on his Special Counsel investigation and left the Department of Justice. He is a private citizen again. For the first time, “Silent Bob” issued a public statement. Read the full transcript of Mr. Mueller’s statement.

The New York Times reports, Mueller, in First Comments on Russia Inquiry, Declines to Clear Trump:

Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, on Wednesday declined to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice in his first public characterization of his two-year-long investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mr. Mueller said, reading from prepared notes behind a lectern at the Justice Department. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”

He also said that while Justice Department policy prohibits charging a sitting president with a crime, the Constitution provides for another process to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing — a clear reference to the ability of Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.

Although his remarks closely matched statements contained in his more than 400-page report, Mr. Mueller’s portrayal of Mr. Trump’s actions was not as benign as Attorney General William P. Barr’s characterizations. While Mr. Barr has seemed to question why the special counsel investigated the president’s behavior, Mr. Mueller stressed the gravity of that inquiry.

“When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable,” he said.

He suggested that he was reluctant to testify before Congress, as the House Judiciary Committee has asked. “The report is my testimony,” he said.

He said he was grateful to Mr. Barr for releasing the vast majority of the document, and did not expect to comment on it further. He said he was closing the special counsel’s office and returning to private life.

There are numerous matters outside the the four-corners of the Mueller Report that Congress wants to learn about and has a right to know. This includes any limitations placed on his investigation by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and his interactions with Attorney General William “coverup” Barr. It includes whatever happened to the counterintelligence portion of his investigation not included within the pages of his report. It includes whether he ever investigated the Trump organizations financial entanglements with Russia as well as Saudi Arabia and the UAE and, if not, why not. It includes why he did not pursue interviews of Donald Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., and of his personal attorney John Dowd for his witness intimidation phone call to Michael Flynn. I could go on and on with numerous avenues of inquiry not contained within the four-corners of the Mueller Report. So spare me your “I have nothing more to say” Silent Bob.

Democrats pointed to Mr. Mueller’s remarks —  that the Constitution provides for another process to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing — as a fresh call for them to investigate the president. Representative Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Congress would continue to scrutinize the president’s “crimes, lies and other wrongdoing.” He added, “No one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law.”

* * *

On Wednesday, Mr. Mueller said he would not provide any information to lawmakers beyond what was in the report, adding that he was under no instructions about whether he could or should testify before Congress. Mr. Nadler has said he would subpoena Mr. Mueller’s testimony, if necessary.

It’s now necessary. Serve a subpoena on this wallflower. Enough negotiation.

Mr. Mueller also stressed that the evidence his team uncovered of Russia’s effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election was a threat to the nation’s political system and “deserves the attention of every American.”

Mr. Mueller objected to the portrayal of the special counsel’s findings provided by Mr. Barr. In particular, Mr. Mueller disputed Mr. Barr’s characterization that the report’s conclusions cleared the president from charges of obstruction of justice. In the report, Mr. Mueller detailed 11 instances in which prosecutors investigated whether the president was deliberately trying to obstruct the investigation.

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mr. Mueller and his investigators wrote. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

The Washington Post adds, As he exits, Mueller suggests only Congress can ‘formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing’:

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III reiterated Wednesday that his office could not clear President Trump of obstructing justice, asserting in his first public remarks about his investigation that federal prosecutors cannot accuse the commander in chief of a crime while suggesting Congress still may do so.

Standing alone on stage in a room used for news conferences on the Justice Department’s seventh floor, Mueller said that if his office “had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” and noted that the Constitution “requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse the president of wrongdoing.”

But if Mueller was trying to suggest Democrats could initiate impeachment proceedings, he also seemed to dash any hopes they might have had of doing so with him as their star witness.

The special counsel — who noted he was closing up shop and formally resigning from the Justice Department — said he hoped the news conference would be his last public comments, and if he were compelled to testify before Congress, he would not speak beyond what he wrote in his 448-page report.

You not only can be compelled to testify about matters outside the four-corners of your report, you will be and should be. You do not get to decide what is relevant to Congress, any more than William “Coverup’ Barr gets to decide.

Democrats, meanwhile, said they would press ahead with their investigations. Several presidential contenders — including Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — said Mueller’s comments were akin to an impeachment referral. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said Congress “has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.”

In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has resisted a move toward impeachment, thanked Mueller for providing “a record for future action both in the Congress and in the courts” and said lawmakers would “continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy.”

A House Democratic leadership aide said Mueller’s public statement would change nothing: the chamber still intends to call the special counsel to appear before Congress — even if lawmakers have to force him. Should Mueller refuse, Democrats could issue a subpoena, though they were hoping to avoid such a compulsory measure.

The aide, who follows the House investigations closely, argued there’s value in having Mueller appear in public, even if he refuses to answer questions beyond what’s in the report. Most Americans, Democrats note, haven’t read Mueller’s findings — but potentially millions would tune in to a highly anticipated hearing broadcast on national television to hear him re-litigate some of what he found.

“There are tons of benefits to the visual . . . to animate and dramatize the report elevates public awareness of it,” the aide said.

Senate Democrats, though, were concerned that the special counsel’s resistance to testifying could complicate their efforts to have Mueller, or one of his deputies, discuss the report’s counterintelligence findings in a closed interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the panel’s vice chairman, said Mueller’s warnings wouldn’t amount to much if Congress fails to act on legislation to improve election security, put “guard rails” around social media, and criminalize any overt failure by political campaigns to report offers of foreign assistance. Warner has proposed legislation to address all of those matters.

The “Enemy of The People,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who prevented a strong response to Russian interference in 2016, Mitch McConnell should explain why he obscured Russian interference in our election, is now blocking all election security bills in the Senate. Election security bills in the Senate are hitting one big roadblock: Mitch McConnell.

It could have something to do with Mitch’s own Russian scandal. Surely It’s a Coincidence That a Firm Tied to a Russian Oligarch Is Pouring Millions Into Kentucky; Rachel Maddow connects the dots on an epic financial scandal involving Mitch McConnell and Russia.

“Mueller was pretty explicit that there was no clean bill of health for Donald Trump that came out of his report,” Warner said. “It would be beyond irresponsible if the White House or Republican leadership doesn’t allow Congress to move on protecting our elections in 2020.”

And yet, this is exactly what is occurring.

Mueller’s highly anticipated public statement was observed by about a dozen government lawyers who stood in the back of the room as Mueller spoke.

* * *

Mueller did not address the dispute [with Barr] specifically Wednesday, but said he did not question Barr’s “good faith” in releasing the report. He left without taking any questions.

Mueller noted that his team found “insufficient evidence” to accuse Trump’s campaign of conspiring with Russia to tilt the 2016 election, but emphasized they did not make a similar determination on whether the president obstructed justice.

That much was already in Mueller’s report. Mueller’s team wrote that Justice Department legal guidance prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president prevented prosecutors from accusing the commander in chief of a crime even in a private report.

On Wednesday, Mueller sought to explain his thinking more fully. A president, he said, “cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional.” And he noted, “Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited.”

“Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider,” Mueller said.

But Mueller said his team was still allowed to investigate Trump because it was possible others could be charged. He did not say what they might have done if the law allowed a president to be charged, but hinted that lawmakers could still pursue the matter. Hundreds of former federal prosecutors have opined in a letter that Mueller laid out sufficient evidence in his report to make an obstruction case. [It now totals 989 former prosecutors.]

Mueller and his team have been frustrated by what they perceive as a lack of understanding even among lawmakers about a critical legal point — that Justice Department policy and fairness prohibit Mueller from reaching a decision on whether the president committed a crime.

Under that policy, Mueller and his team also believe it would be improper for him to say that the president would be charged with obstruction but for the Justice Department policy, because saying that would amount to a criminal accusation against the president, according to people involved in the discussion.

Mueller’s team came to believe that making any sort of impeachment referral to Congress also would fall under the category of accusing the president of a crime, according to people familiar with their discussions.

For those reasons, Mueller has been guarded in his comments about the findings, and wants to avoid being drawn into a back-in-forth in congressional testimony that could be tantamount to accusing the president of a crime, these people said.

So what Silent Bob is saying here is that “I gave you a road map of evidence for impeachment, and it is up to Congress to make the call. It is not my call.” OK then, it’s time to impeach.

UPDATE: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler responds to Robert Mueller’s statement. “All options are on the table” regarding impeachment, but he makes no immediate commitment to do so. Nadler dodges the question whether he will subpoena Robert Mueller to testify.  I don’t understand his reticence.

UPDATE: Remember Andrew Miller, the Roger Stone associate represented by right-wing legal groups who refused to testify before the grand jury and was going to bring down the Robert Mueller investigation by challenging the legal authority for his investigation? This dillhole was held in contempt of court, and today lost his appeal. Roger Stone associate will testify later this week as part of Mueller probe — which apparently hasn’t ended:

Stone associate Andrew Miller had challenged Mueller’s authority since last summer to obtain information related to the Republican activist and WikiLeaks, and Judge Beryl Howell held him in contempt.

Miller lost his appeal during a hearing held around the same time as Mueller’s news conference.

Mueller prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, who has handled the case against Stone, notified Miller’s attorneys why his testimony was still needed, and he agreed to testify later this week.

Miller agreed to testify before a grand jury Friday as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Also on Friday, the transcript and tape recording of Trump lawyer John Dowd engaged in witness tampering will be made public. Flynn Voicemail Set for Release as Influence Attempts Disclosed:

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered transcripts of the phone message and of Flynn’s conversations with Russian officials to be posted on the court’s publicly-available electronic docket by May 31. He also ordered that unredacted portions of the Mueller report related to Flynn be handed over to him.

Also, Flynn’s case could prompt release of some redacted parts of Mueller report:

Judge Emmet Sullivan of the US District Court in DC set a Friday deadline for the Justice Department to make public unredacted portions of the Mueller report that pertain to Flynn, plus transcripts of Flynn’s calls with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and of a voicemail during which someone connected to Trump referenced Flynn’s cooperation.

Taken together, the judge’s orders look like a shortcut to transparency in a moment of executive branch stonewalling.

The case is U.S. v. Flynn, 17-cr-232, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).