In March of 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his findings on the Russia Investigation. The findings of the investigation itself were somewhat expected, as evidenced from the course of indictments and guilty pleas which preceded the release of the Special Counsel’s report. For instance, in the 22 month investigation, there was never a charge against anyone related to the Trump campaign which was directly connected to collusion with the Russians. Even though Michael Flynn had suspicious phone calls with the Russian ambassador during the transition, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the conversation, not the content of the conversation itself.
The report was published in two volumes. The first one deals with the Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election and the second volume deals with understanding whether the President obstructed justice. In the first volume, Mueller clearly states that the Russians made systematic efforts to try and influence the results of the election. In a public statement made this week, Mueller repeated this claim, saying the Russian efforts deserve the
“interest and attention of every American.” In the second volume, however, the special counsel declines to comment decisively on whether or not the President obstructed justice. We do not have a full explanation for why exactly he chose to do this. Instead of reaching a conclusion, in every instance of possible obstruction, the report lays out evidence on both sides of the argument but leaves unresolved the view of the special counsel, regarding matters which he says are complex questions with grey answers as to whether the President committed a crime. The report most notably says that while this report does not convict the President, it does not exonerate him. In the same statement this week, Mueller reiterated that even though the Justice Department “cannot charge a sitting President, the Constitution provides another avenues to hold the President accountable.” At this point in time, Mueller has resigned, the office is closed, the investigation is now over, and no one will be charged by the Special Counsel under the pretext of this investigation. The President’s Attorney General, William Barr is now entrusted with the tricky responsibility of figuring out which parts of the report to include when it is eventually released to the public in redacted form.
Barr, by all means was in a difficult spot. He must both, release an amount of information to the public and congress so as prove that the investigation was not hampered and was indeed completed, while also keeping hidden that information which could leave a questionable impression on the President. In other words, Barr must prove to the public that the investigation is completed, while protecting the President from his political enemies by not giving away the whole story. Barr also has the additional challenge of not having a second chance when it comes to presentation of the findings of the report, he must stick to what he started out with, or he runs the risk of looking to favor the President which is a threat to the separation of powers guaranteed by the constitution. Barr, in his four page summary of the report, exactly hits this mark. He presents the information in a way which is legitimate enough to convince the public and congress that the investigation was fair, while also protecting the President. Up until this point, even though the House Democrats believed that Trump did something wrong, there was a distinct lack of any calls to impeachment or removal from office. It is only after the redacted report is released to the public, that the call to impeach the President really starts seeming like a relevant and even necessary route.
The release of the redacted report was preceded by a statement made by the Attorney General. The statement was highly unusual for an acting Attorney General. Instead of a calm stating of a litany of administrative details, Barr went on an aggressive rant insisting that the President was exonerated. While we did not know for certain why Barr chose to deliver this stance right before the report was released, after the report’s release, clearly, Barr was aiming to shape the perceptions of the public in an effort to keep them from even reading the report. In other words, he was trying to make the conclusion of the report so pedestrian, that reading the fine print would be unnecessary. If this was the intent, it did not translate into action.
The mainstream media and House Democrats lunged at the report and began publishing every tiny detail at a dizzying rate. The microscopic analysis of every detail led to the revelation of a picture much more complex and murky than was first presented in the aggressive speech by the Attorney General. While this in itself is a huge burden for any administration, there was more in the pipeline. The analysis of the report proves beyond reasonable doubt that Attorney General lied. The combined effect of the Attorney General lying and the Mueller report displaying significant instances where the President obstructed justice, provide a renewed energy to the members Democratic Party who then call for the impeachment the President of the United States. Except for Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer, it is safe to say that most of the party wants to move forward with impeachment proceedings.
However, Pelosi is the leader of the party and has so far resisted moving forward with impeachment. She strongly believes that impeachment will backfire unless there is a strong foundation for the case and collaboration across the aisle. Instead of pursuing impeachment, Democrats have pursued House subpoenas to force the administration associates to forfeit questionable documents and for administration officials to testify before Congress. At every turn the President has blocked the House’s efforts to dig into his history. Invoking executive privilege and simply ordering officials to not adhere to subpoenas are a couple of the main methods employed by the executive branch to stop oversight by the legislative branch. Democrats are becoming increasingly frustrated. In the heat of this situation, a federal court ruled against blocking a congressional subpoena for the President’s accounting firm. In essence, there is now a situation wherein a subpoena has been enforced with constitutional authority, giving the Democrats renewed energy and reason to keep pushing ahead with their investigations. However, party members decide to use this decision to their advantage. Democrats now began to argue that an impeachment proceeding would give their subpoenas greater legal weight. This greater weight would translate into the increasing pressure that Democratic investigators can use to get the information they want. There is a stark change. Impeachment was first sought after because Democrats thought the President did something wrong, but now Democrats began to consider impeachment under the context of having a better strategy to enforce subpoenas. In this state of change, Republican lawmaker Justin Amash read the Mueller report and concluded that he would support an impeachment proceeding, making Pelosi’s want of a collaborative effort to impeach a tangible reality, from a distant possibility.