The Mueller Report: A Blueprint For Impeachment
by Stephen Rohde
Specially condensed by the author for Change Links; full article on-line here: httpss://lareviewofbooks.org/article/the-mueller-report-oh-my-god-this-is-terrible-this-is-the-end-of-my-presidency-im-fucked/
On April 18, the redacted version of the Mueller Report was released to the public. It is one of the most important documents in the history of the US presidency and it is a blueprint for the impeachment and removal of President Donald J. Trump.
The Report conclusively establishes that the “Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a sweeping and systematic fashion” (Volume I) and presents a 128-page summary of the evidence supporting numerous accusations that Trump personally obstructed justice (Volume II). The Report has energized calls for Trump’s impeachment. It deserves to be read by everyone who cares about the USA and the future of our democratic institutions.
It is very important to understand that Mueller conducted a criminal investigation. The responsibility of the Special Counsel was to determine whether Trump or anyone associated with him engaged in a criminal conspiracy with the requisite criminal intent sufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that they violated specific federal criminal statutes. But the fact Trump avoided a criminal indictment does not mean the investigation of his presidency is over. Far from it.
Under federal law, conspiracy requires admissible evidence that two parties knowingly and intentionally made a corrupt agreement to pursue an illegal object and took one or more steps to achieve that purpose. When it came to Russian interference, Mueller found that prosecutors could not prove conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt. (Apparently, Russian spies are not in the habit of leaving behind evidence of their agreements with witting or unwitting helpers.)
Tellingly, the Report makes clear that a “statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” [Emphasis added–Ed.] The investigation also “established that several individuals associated with the Trump campaign lied [to prosecutors] and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters” and that those “lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference.”
Despite those obstacles, Volume I documents more than 100 in-person meetings, phone calls, text messages, emails, and private messages among more than two dozen Russian nationals, WikiLeaks, and intermediaries on the one side, and Donald J. Trump and at least 18 election campaign officials and advisors on the other side, including Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Michael D. Cohen, Jeff Sessions, Michael T. Flynn, Carter Page, and Roger J. Stone, Jr. Trump personally had at least ten such contacts, despite telling the people of the US on the eve of the election that he had “nothing to do with Russia.” The Report also confirms that “the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from the information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
Given eleven pending prosecutions and fourteen potential prosecutions, not to mention separate state investigations in New York and elsewhere, Trump could still be criminally charged after leaving office. And in the case of any prosecutions in New York or other states, Trump could be indicted while still in office because there are no state laws or policies preventing charges from being filed against a sitting official, including the President.
Viewed outside the strictures of criminal law, the Report provides ample evidence that on the basis of his documented involvement with the Russians, Trump is guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” In short, as far as holding Trump accountable is concerned, Volume I is not a closed book.
Turning to Volume II regarding obstruction of justice, Mueller points out that he was prevented from indicting Trump because the “Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has issued an opinion finding that ‘the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions’ in violation of ‘the constitutional separation of powers.’” However, in the most-quoted statement of the entire Report, Mueller points out that:
[I]f we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him. [Emphasis added-Ed.]”
Volume II documents in great detail, based on extensive sworn testimony from firsthand witnesses and contemporary documentary evidence, a shocking pattern of presidential abuse of power. These pages wreak of corruption and villainy. They portray a President unbound by the fundamental standards of morality which ordinarily constrain decent, law-abiding people, let alone a person who has accepted the mantel of President of the United States and has expressly sworn under oath to take care the laws are faithfully executed and to preserve, defend and protect the Constitution.
Volume II documents in great detail, based on extensive sworn testimony from firsthand witnesses and contemporary documentary evidence, a shocking pattern of presidential abuse of power.
In particular, the Report described at least ten separate occasions on which Trump personally attempted to interfere with and obstruct the investigation and cover up activities he may have believed were politically and legally damaging or harmful to his election, including demanding personal loyalty from government officials; asking that criminal charges against Michael Flynn be dropped; firing the Director of the FBI during the pendency of his investigation into the Trump campaign; misrepresenting to the American people why he fired the FBI Director; asking intelligence officials to clear him of any wrongdoing; trying to limit the scope of the investigation into Russia and his campaign; asking Attorney General Sessions to “unrecuse” himself and investigate Hillary Clinton; threatening to fire Sessions; dictating a misleading statement about a key meeting at Trump Tower between Russians and members of his campaign; ordering his legal counsel to fire Mueller and then demanding his counsel fabricate a record denying the original order; telling Manafort, Flynn and Cohen to “stay strong” and promising – through his lawyers – they would be “taken care of” unless they “went rogue;” and threatening Cohen by suggesting his father-in-law might be at risk.
In 1974, President Nixon was also facing impeachment on charges of official wrongdoing remarkably similar to what the evidence in the Mueller Report shows Trump has done. The House was in the control of the Democrats. The Senate was also in the control of the Democrats but they did not have a two-thirds majority. Yet as the American people heard the testimony of key witnesses and saw the incriminating evidence for themselves, public opinion in favor of impeachment mounted. On the eve of the House voting to impeach, Republicans leaders told Nixon he was doomed because key Senate Republicans were prepared to provide the necessary votes to convict him and remove him from office. Nixon resigned.
Today, the question facing the nation is whether, in light of the Mueller Report, the Constitution, and our history, the House has the courage to once again hold hearings and marshal the evidence of impeachable offenses, regardless of the current head count in the Senate. The Constitution provides for impeachment for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” It is well established that impeachment and removal did not require proof that an actual crime – a violation of the penal code or criminal statute – had been committed.
In 1973, Elizabeth Holtzman became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, where she served four terms. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she became a member of the House Judiciary Committee and voted in favor of the Articles of Impeachment against Nixon. Last year, she wrote a book entitled THE CASE FOR IMPEACHING TRUMP, in which she concludes that:
President Donald Trump threatens our democracy. He lies, attacks our constitution, assaults the press, and obstructs justice. He causes unfathomable damage. The Constitution has a remedy for presidents who commit “great and dangerous offenses”: impeachment.
A fair, lawful, bipartisan impeachment inquiry into President Trump means getting to the bottom of things. It means analyzing with a clear head and heart what President Trump has done and what the law requires.
Impeaching a president is a grave undertaking. The compassionate and diverse America I know demands we get ready to do it.
Holtzman outlines several potential Articles of Impeachment against Trump including “Preventing, Obstructing, Impeding, and Abusing the Administration of Justice”; “Bribery and Emoluments”, “Failure to Protect the Integrity of Our Federal Election Process,” and other possible impeachable acts, such as colluding with the Russians (regardless of whether or not Trump was engaged in a criminal conspiracy), abusing his authority over immigration by separating children from their families, and violating campaign finance laws by concealing hush money payments from the American voters.
As a nation we can be proud when we look back at how leaders of both parties did not shrink from their duty to pursue the impeachment of Nixon. Today, if members of the House – Democrats and those Republicans who take their oath seriously – educate the American people, through live testimony of witnesses under oath and documentary evidence, about the glaring proof of Trump’s “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the case will move to the Senate. There every Senator will have to stand and be counted. If two-thirds place country and the Constitution above Trump, he will be removed from office. But even if the vote in the Senate falls short, then those who voted for Trump, whether they are up for reelection or not, will have to face the people in 2020 and explain why they supported Trump. And as for Trump himself, the voters will get a second bite at the apple to remove him from office at the ballot box.
Constrained as he was by the strictures of criminal law and OLC policy precluding the indictment of a sitting President, Robert Mueller did his job. Armed with this devastating and decisive record of Trump’s abuse of power and official wrongdoing, the people of the USA and the members of Congress must now do theirs.