Robert Mueller III, the special prosecutor hired to investigate claims of possible coordination between the Trump campaign’s successful 2016 Presidential bid and Russian interference in the US election, announced Wednesday, May 29 that he was resigning from the Department of Justice and closing his office. In his only public statement since being hired in May 2017, Mueller stated he does not intend to discuss the findings of his report further and intends to return to civilian life.
Mueller’s findings, released earlier this year, were subject of hyper-partisan conflict even before the heavily redacted Mueller Report was publicly available.
Trump supporters interpret the Mueller Report as exonerating the President of colluding with the Russian government as well as obstructing the investigation. Trump has stated that the results of the “witch hunt” vindicated his campaign, highlighting Mueller’s conclusion that the Trump Campaign did not actively coordinate with Russian agents to sway the election.
President Trump’s critics see it differently. These critics continue to highlight the 11 instances Mueller identified where the Trump Administration either deliberately or unintentionally acted to prevent investigators from getting the information necessary to pursue the investigation and potential links to the Russian government. Complicating the issue, Mueller’s team declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on any of these acts. Citing the established DOJ custom that a sitting president cannot be indicted, Mueller instead passed on his factual findings to be evaluated by what he views as the proper political channels.
For Democrats, the only available avenue to charge Trump lies with the power to impeach an official for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which would certainly include obstruction of justice, as former President Richard Nixon illustrated in 1973. Democrats hold a majority in the House of Representatives, the body responsible for impeaching a president. Republicans still hold a majority in the Senate, however, which must convict by a two-thirds supermajority to remove an impeached president from office.
What Special Counsel Mueller and Attorney General Barr have not indicated publicly is whether the process of gathering evidence was lawful, or as Barr put it, “adequately predicated.” This question is the subject of three investigations recently launched by Republicans into the origins of evidence used to pursue the investigation.
Republicans say their investigations are necessary to determine whether surveillance of the Trump campaign was politically motivated, whereas Democrats worry the Republican-backed probes are political retaliation by an administration emboldened by the results of the Mueller Report.
In his parting words, Mueller defended his report, stating that “if we had cleared the president of committing a crime, we would have said so,” a much different message than the one issued by Trump, who continues to maintain his innocence and claim “total exoneration.”
Mueller said he will not speak on his findings publicly again as the report is the totality of testimony he could provide, though he did offer to speak with Congressional members behind closed doors.
Trump took to the social media platform Twitter on Wednesday, stating “There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed. Thank you.”