Opinion

We’ve heard enough from Robert Mueller

ROBERT MUELLER, former FBI director, headed the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign (White House photo).

The last thing the world needs is more of Robert Mueller’s commentary, but Congress is determined to have him hold forth at a public hearing. It’s not as though we don’t already have the special counsel’s version of events.

He mustered enormous investigate resources and took two years to write a 400-page report that is available to the public and presumably carefully written (although not necessarily carefully thought through). That should be enough for Mueller to stand on, and enough for Congress to make a decision to impeach or not impeach, or otherwise dispose of the matter as it sees fit.

Instead, Mueller is going to be asked to expand on his already-expansive report that not only blew through Justice Department regulations, but inverted the long-standing burden of proof in the Anglo-American legal tradition. As a prosecutor, Mueller’s job – his sole job, really – was to decide whether or not the president was guilty of a crime.

He declined to do this, choosing instead to write a nearly 200-page volume on obstruction cataloging what he found in the course of not making the only decision he was supposed to make. The relevant regulations say that at the conclusion of the special counsel’s work he or she “shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.”

On obstruction, Mueller reached no such decision, and he didn’t write a confidential report, either – his report was clearly meant for public consumption. Besides that, he’s a stickler for the rules. Worse, as Trump’s special counsel Emmet Flood set out in an excoriating letter, by stipulating that the evidence prevented him “from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred,” Mueller stood the presumption of innocence on its head.

By Mueller’s standard, the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove guilt — the target has to prove innocence. And if the target doesn’t, he will be disparaged in a long-form quasi-indictment spelling out why he’s not exonerated. If anyone not named Donald J. Trump were subjected to this new prosecutorial standard, it would occasion widespread comment and – one hopes – consternation.

Now, Congress wants Mueller to compound the offense by speaking publicly. It doesn’t want facts from him. They are already in the report. It wants opinions and sound bites, especially any embarrassing to the president. Congress wants him to spend a couple of high-profile hours further “not exonerating” the president.

If Mueller had a proper understanding of his role, he would decline the congressional invitation. But the fact is that Mueller and Congress have a symbiotic relationship. For two years, Mueller was acting as, in effect, the lead counsel for an impeachment inquiry – bizarrely housed within the executive branch – while Congress wants to use his moral authority as a crutch at a time when it is vulnerable to charges of partisan overreaching.

This, too, is not supposed to be how the system works. But we are long beyond anyone caring. For a swath of the political world and much of the media, all that matters is that Mueller “not exonerate” Trump, and the more, the better, in whatever format or forum.

Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review. (c) 2019 by King Features Synd., Inc.

3 replies »

  1. Since the main issue is that at least from what the majority of polls are saying about the report,a relatively high proportion of the voting population is currently assuming Mr Barr has misrepresented the Mueller report, and since so much of the report is redacted they may well be correct. If Mueller can assure Congress that the redacted report fairly represents his conclusion and that the Barr summary was honest, surely that would remove much of the current suspicion. I would have thought that even the Republicans would be interested in reducing the worry in the general population about the honesty of their conclusions. If I was conducting such a campaign (which as a non American I am not!) I would have thought the last thing I would want to see was Mr Mueller says something embarrassing about his report just before the next election.

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  2. I respect your right to your opinion. I do not believe you could be any more wrong. It is deeply disturbing to witness the level of secrecy this administration tries to operate behind supported by almost militantly partisan supporters- on the hill and off. The search for truth in the face of obstructionism and disrespect must be pursued and trying to reframe those efforts as something pointless and wasteful is part of the problem. Rhetoric does not change the fact that the American people are owed a transparent government and we should not bow down to anything less. If the pursuit for the truth is bothersome, perhaps there should be less effort to hide, subvert, reframe, or engage in lying. Telling the truth about finances and behavior would be much more efficient and cost effective but that is not what the American people are getting. We are getting the opposite wrapped in phony Theocratic idealism. Doing the right thing is usually an uphill battle and we should never be too tired or too apathetic to care about the state of our democracy, it’s people, or it’s planet. The current state of partisan politics is a blatant reminder our public servants have quit serving us to are putting all their energies into winning but above all else we should never stop the pursuit of the truth when there is so much effort being made to obstruct and hide. This administration answers to the people and does not get to dictate its own levels of morality or corruption no matter how upside down they would like to the new norm to be.

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    • Let’s just point out that this article is from a syndicated columnist, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Tribune or its staff. In our effort to be balanced, we have one liberal columnist – Bob Franken – and one conservative – Rich Lowry.

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