The new narrative we’ve been hearing since Mueller’s report essentially vindicated President Trump is that he didn’t make a definitive recommendation on the question of obstruction of justice. One line in the summary has left-wing conspiracy theorists (otherwise known as the media and Congressional Democrats) freshly frothing at the mouth over another 18 months of pure nonsense that will ultimately be a dead end.
However, Mueller’s investigation did not take a position on whether Trump obstructed justice by trying to frustrate the ongoing investigation.
“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Barr quotes from Mueller’s report.
What does this line actually mean? There are two trails of thought.
Some are saying this is just common sense. Prosecutors do not exonerate people of crimes. Our justice system is not based on the principle of guilty until proven innocent. By including that line, Mueller is just making it clear that his report is not a political document meant to prove a negative. He weighed the evidence and could not make the legal determination that President Trump committed a crime so he can’t move forward. In essence, they are saying that it’s simply his way of saying he can’t bring a prosecution based on the evidence.
Others aren’t buying that innocuous reasoning.
Did conservatives unfairly criticize Mueller? No—his report vindicates their concerns. Mueller cleared Trump in fact—no prosecution—but still tried to harm him politically by claiming to make no call about obstruction. Yet to recommend prosecution or not *is* the call.
— Daniel McCarthy (@ToryAnarchist) March 25, 2019
If Mueller wanted to claim Trump had obstructed justice by speaking against a full-throated investigation of a crime sane people must admit he didn't commit, he should have done so. It could be argued that not doing so shows Theory 2 is still something we're dealing with. 8/
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) March 25, 2019
Exoneration was never Mueller’s purpose and he knows that. By putting that line in there, all he’s doing is feeding the political frenzy. The question is, did he do that on purpose? Was it a Comey-esque wink and nod to further stir the pot despite the facts not leading him to a determination of criminal conduct?
I can’t answer that right now. What’s more important are the results of his actions.
It was a total, damaging cop-out for him to include that line instead of just making the call in a normal prosecutorial fashion. That doesn’t mean he needed to say Trump was innocent because that’s not his job, but the proper response would have been to say that he lacks evidence of obstruction and he cannot recommend further action. By ambiguously claiming that he simply can’t make the call, instead leaving it to the DOJ, he’s set us up for another 18 months of mind-numbing stupidity that will end the same way the collusion narrative ended.
Take noted Trump critic Preet Bharara’s hot take as an example.
"On collusion, the case is closed," @PreetBharara says @GMA. "On the issue of obstruction, we're sort of not done."
— Rick Klein (@rickklein) March 25, 2019
In reality, it is over. Mueller found no clear evidence of obstruction, despite his ham-handed way of saying so and the DOJ will not pursue it further. It’s only not over in the sense that Mueller has fed into the perpetual outrage machine directed at Trump by Democratic politicians and the left-wing media. That should not have happened.
There are three facts that are clear. One, the President did not materially obstruct the investigation. It completed as intended. Two, even if you believe he was trying to do so with his mean tweets, you will never be able to prove intent. Three, there is zero chance that Congress will impeach Trump over such an incredibly weak charge. Does anyone think the American people, who already thought at a 50% clip that the Mueller probe was a witch hunt, are going to take impeachment seriously based on Trump tweeting against an investigation which ultimately proved him right?
Come on, it’d be political disaster for Democrats to move forward on that front and they know it. Instead, what we are now going to get is endless investigations on obstruction because Mueller couldn’t just do his job. Yes, the DOJ ruled that Trump did not obstruct justice, so there is no more criminal liability, but Robert Mueller had to know he was throwing a grenade in the middle of everything by not making a judgment himself.
Alan Dershowitz gave a good rebuke yesterday in an interview reacting to the decision.
“I thought it was a cop-out. For him to say that there was not enough evidence to indict, but it’s not an exoneration (on obstruction)…it sounds like a law school exam.
“That’s not the job of prosecutor. The job of the prosecutor is to decide ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Make a decision. And then if you say ‘yes,’ you indict, if you say ‘no,’ you shut up.
“You don’t go on and say, ‘no we’re not going to indict, but let tell me you all the evidence that might have led us to indict.’ That’s exactly what prosecutors shouldn’t do,’” he said, via Mediaite.
He compared Mueller’s action to former FBI Director James Comey’s criticism of Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign for her use of a private email server after deciding not to press charges against her.
This is exactly right. It’s not the job of a prosecutor to feed political fodder to a person’s opponent. It’s their job to make a decision, one way or the other. If you can’t come to a decision to indict, the default position should be to say that and assert that you can not recommend prosecution. Period, end of story. You don’t ride the fence and claim you can’t make a determination. That’s exactly the kind of thing DOJ guidelines on not slandering those you don’t charge are meant to prevent.
In the end, the obstruction narrative that’s heating up will go nowhere. DOJ officials have made their decision and they are the ruling authority here. Partisan investigations in the House will also lead nowhere. All this will do is feed many more months of hysteria in the media until Election Day in 2020. That could have all been avoided had Robert Mueller not copped out on the question of obstruction and simply done his job.
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