….. Because I want him to clarify what some of his statements mean. The 400+ page report is divided into two sections, one on “conspiracy” and the other on “obstruction of justice”. The Trump narrative reduces the report to “no collusion”, “no obstruction.” But as with everything Trump, his depiction vacillates between being not quite true, to just plain false. This is especially true as to the second section on obstruction.
First, on the “collusion” aspect, Mueller does not use that word, but instead “criminal conspiracy”. The former is not a legal term, despite its constant use by Trump and the media; the latter is a legal term with several hurdles to overcome in order to indict. Therefore, one could collude quite a bit without actually committing the crime of conspiracy.
There is plenty of evidence that the Trump team and the Russians played off each other in ways that may not be judged criminal conspiracy, but still were improper, especially for a presidential candidate. Trump’s team clearly welcomed Russian efforts that would help him, even if they did not exactly “conspire” with them.
Still, Mueller states at the end of the first section that he could not find sufficient evidence to indict………..points for the Trump team. But of key significance, Mueller does not make the same claim in the second section on the obstruction of justice. Instead, he states clearly that a lack of indictments here should not be seen as an “exoneration” of the president, listing 10 episodes that could be seen as obstruction. The AP has summed up this aspect so well I will quote them at length:
“THE FACTS: The special counsel’s 400-plus-page report specifically does not exonerate Trump, leaving open the question of whether the president obstructed justice.
“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,” Mueller wrote. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
The report identifies 10 instances of possible obstruction by Trump and said he might have “had a motive” to impede the investigation because of what it could find on a variety of personal matters, such as his proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
“The evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns,” the report states.
In explaining its decision, Mueller’s team said reaching a conclusion on whether Trump committed crimes would be inappropriate because of a Justice Department legal opinion indicating that a sitting president should not be prosecuted. It nevertheless left open at least the theoretical possibility that Trump could be charged after he leaves office, noting that its factual investigation was conducted “in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary material were available.”
“Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the report states.”
I highlighted that section above in blue because it raises a curious, likely confusing point that has not been dwelt upon in the media for the most part. Mueller seems to be saying that the Justice Department’s rule against indicting a president while still in office prevented him from making a decision on obstruction indictments, as that would exceed his mandate. But he could preserve evidence for possible future investigations, such as the House is undertaking now.
Mueller has been or will be invited to speak to House committees. I expect him to attend willingly and figure he will be asked to clarify points I have just raised. I’m looking forward to it.
P. S. Michael Smerconish, one of my favorite TV political hosts, did concentrate on this very issue this morning, so if you want to know more about this, go to his website and look for a picture of Trump on the top right: https://www.smerconish.com/home
Or, if you already have had enough of this, just wait for Mueller to testify in a couple of weeks or so, because he will likely clear up many questions the report raises.