Mary Anne Marsh: Mueller’s mandate to Congress is to move forward on impeachment

“Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams said.

Robert Mueller underscored Adams' words last week in the only public statement made to date about his investigation. After two letters protesting Attorney General William Barr’s whitewashing of the Mueller Report, followed by multiple public mischaracterizations of it, Mueller resorted to a press conference at the Department of Justice to present the facts about his report. Then he resigned.

In nine minutes, Mueller laid out the facts in the 448-page report: Russia interfered the 2016 election; Trump committed crimes; Barr lied; Congress must hold them accountable. Then for good measure, he repeated that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and every American should be concerned about it.

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Those nine minutes determined Donald Trump’s fate and the political dynamic of the 2020 election. There is no doubt these facts should have been presented 46 days ago. Instead, Trump, Barr, and a chorus of accomplices chose to lie. Now, it is clear in the wake of the Mueller press conference that those same facts will lead to impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

Let’s review the facts.

The fact is Mueller didn’t indict Trump because the Department of Justice policy states that a sitting president cannot be indicted, not because Trump was innocent. In fact, Mueller pointedly stated, “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Mueller said no such thing. That is the only reason Trump is not indicted today. The day he leaves the White House, however, he can be. That is a fact.

Yet Barr continues to criticize Mueller for following this Department of Justice policy. If Mueller had indicted Trump, then Barr would no doubt have criticized him for not following DOJ policy.

That tells you everything you need to know about Trump, and about Barr. Facts don’t matter to them – but facts will determine their fate.

Trump and Barr are about to find out just how stubborn the facts are in this case when they are held accountable by Congress and the American people.

While turning a blind eye to facts has long been common practice for Trump, he now has a long list of accomplices, and none more important than the Attorney General of the United States, William Barr, acting as his consigliere. Barr already has a reputation for leading cover-ups and now he is at the helm of the biggest one since Watergate, facts be damned.

How else to explain Barr’s claim that Trump’s conduct did not constitute obstruction? Mueller laid out several examples where the facts make clear Trump did commit obstruction, including witness tampering when he instructed his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort not to cooperate with investigators. Or the effort to lobby former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II to create a document contradicting his previous testimony that Trump wanted him to fire Mueller. There are also multiple instances where pardons were dangled to witnesses in exchange for protecting Trump. Each one of these examples is the definition of obstruction.

Presenting the facts publicly last week, Mueller made clear that while he may not be able today to hold Trump accountable – because he is in the White House – that Congress must. Mueller stated at his press conference that even without access to the entire Mueller Report, and underlying evidence that is being withheld by Barr, that there are more than enough facts to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump.

Specifically, Section IV of the Constitution states that “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanor.”  Therefore, to be impeached and removed from office, the House and Senate must find that the official committed one of these acts.

The distinction here is that impeachment is a political process, not a criminal one. And while the bar may be lower than that required for criminal charges, it is no less serious. Congress has no power to impose criminal penalties on impeached officials, but it can remove an official from office.

For Mueller to make that statement – one of the more serious that can be leveled against any president – it had to be based on the facts presented in his investigation, facts that Congress must now act upon. That is why it is clear in the wake of Mueller’s press conference that Trump will face impeachment. It is a matter of when, not if. Mueller has provided the facts to act and our democracy depends upon it.

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John Adams’ words, and his full quote, underscore the importance of Mueller’s investigation and our responsibility. “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence: nor is the law less stable than the fact.”

Trump and Barr are about to find out just how stubborn the facts are in this case when they are held accountable by Congress and the American people. That day of reckoning is rapidly approaching, just as Mueller outlined and as our Constitution demands.

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