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Although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has long had an attitude that she would “rather stick a fork in her eye” than pursue impeachment of Donald Trump, special counsel Robert Mueller’s extraordinary public statement Wednesday may well change all of that.
“Yeah, the message really is: ‘Over to you, Congress.’ Look, a lot of people were waiting to see if Mueller would charge the president. What he reminded everyone, he is part of the [Justice Department] that says you can’t, which means his option wasn’t ‘charge or don’t charge.’ It was: ‘Clear or don’t clear’ the president,” said Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and one of nearly two dozen Democrats running for president. “And he made a decision to not clear the president based on the evidence he gathered.
“He made clear that the procedures in the DOJ won’t be enough to establish accountability, but procedures do exist for a sitting president to be held accountable,” Buttigieg added. “And if the Justice Department can’t charge a sitting president with an actual crime, then it goes over to Congress to decide whether they charge the president with a high crime. This is as close to impeachment referral as you get under the circumstances.”
Mueller Wednesday made his first public statement since finishing his investigation as special counsel, indicating that–despite intense interest in his testimony before Congress–that he does not want to make any statements beyond what are in the report he filed in March with the Justice Department.
Mueller’s team did not find enough that rose to the level of criminal conspiracy in any collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. Moreover, on obstruction of justice, Mueller said that he was not exonerating Trump. However, because of the Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president, Mueller said he felt he could not charge Trump.
“Today was the first day that we have heard from Mueller himself in his own words, and honestly, the consequence of hearing from him today for the first time is I think what is now the widely held expectation that the Democratic-controlled Congress will have no choice but to open an impeachment inquiry into President Trump,” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said on her program Wednesday night. “Not because they want to. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been blunt and consistent and insistent in making sure she would frankly rather stick a fork in her eye, but now we know that what Congress didn’t fully appreciate when they all initially cheered the appointment of Robert Mueller, when they praised him personally, when they praised the decision of the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to look into this matter, what I think Congress didn’t fully grasp at the time was that the regulations under which Mueller was appointed meant that if this investigation turned up serious evidence of serious misconduct, if it turned up evidence of potentially criminal behavior by the president, the only and inevitable outcome of that determination by the special counsel would be that Congress themselves would have to do something about it.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee and another Democrat running for president, agreed that Mueller’s statement seemed to be setting up impeachment in the House.
“It certainly, I think, will amplify those calls. It’s a road that I’ve always said that we’re going to be on and end up at anyway. But taking a step back, the call that I also heard from Mr. Mueller was for every American to care about what the Russians did,” Swalwell said. “That includes you, Mr. President, because he is the only leader in our country who has not acknowledged what the Russians did to our democracy. I also believe there’s a call for future presidents to get rid of the DOJ rule that says a president cannot be indicted. I have said that if I win, day one, I will tell the DOJ to lift that policy. I hope every Democratic nominee makes that pledge.
“No president should be immunized in the way that this president has been immunized because he would be indicted right now is what the special counsel told us,” Swalwell added.