Today, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller spoke for the first time in two years on implications of the Special Prosecutor’s report. The main points were whether Russia engaged in interference with our 2016 election. He concluded that Russia did engage in interference in our 2016 presidential election. He also discussed whether the president engaged in obstruction. He did not clear Trump of any wrongdoing. If there had been a way to clear the president, Mueller states he would have done so. The evidence was not sufficient to clear the president of any wrongdoing. At the same time, there was no way to indict a sitting president since Department of Justice memorandum forbids indicting a sitting president. Mueller felt bound by the Justice Department guidelines. Mueller left it in the hands of Congress to do what is necessary under the U. S. Constitution—to bring impeachment proceedings.
Some may ask why did the Special Prosecutor investigate the president if he couldn’t be indicted. Mueller stated an investigation is necessary while memories are fresh. And co-conspirators can be charged. He did not address if the facts would have been sufficient to indict a person who was not a sitting president. That is a question that Congress should inquire.
While Mueller believes that his work is done—as he resigned today, he is far from being over. If Congress takes up impeachment proceedings, then Mueller will be requested or subpoenaed to testify. And the written report is not a sufficient replacement for asking questions and following up on answers. I am often asked by witnesses if they can testify in writing—without having to come to court. And the answer is always “no”. It’s why lawyers take depositions of witnesses. A written response, however lengthy, is not nearly as good as seeing and hearing a person testify.
The American people are owed an explanation as to what transpired with the investigation beyond what is contained in the report. If there is an impeachment hearing in the House, a hearing in the Senate would follow with openings and closing statements along with testimony—all for the American people to see. For now, Congress must do what is their responsibility under the U.S. Constitution—immediately begin impeachment proceedings. The whole truth must be told and told under oath.
Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and trial attorney.