How does Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s public statement change the impeachment question? Not very much. He confirmed what we already knew from his report:
- If he had been confident that President Trump did not commit the crime of obstructing justice, he would have said so.
- He didn’t consider bringing charges against Trump because under longstanding Department of Justice policy, it is unconstitutional to file criminal charges against a sitting President.
- The proper way to hold the Trump accountable for his conduct is either through criminal charges after he leaves office or the impeachment process while he still holds office.
Does the Mueller Report justify impeachment?
While there is enough evidence from the Mueller investigation to justify obstruction of justice charges, the case for impeachment is weaker. As I wrote last month, Mueller’s report provided a mixed picture. There were serious efforts by Trump to obstruct, but they were accompanied by significant efforts to facilitate the Mueller investigation, as when Trump turned over requested documents and made aides available for interviews, without invoking executive privilege. This is an important distinction with the Nixon impeachment. Overall, there was more desire to obstruct than actual obstruction.
Still, this doesn’t mean impeachment is out of the picture. There are other serious concerns about the President’s conduct, including concerns about the influence of his personal financial interests on his policy decisions. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi has observed, the decision whether to impeach can be made once further investigation into Trump’s other conduct has progressed.