Fresh calls for Trump’s impeachment after Mueller statement
US Special Counsel broke his silence to say charging president with crime was not an option
US Special Counsel Robert Mueller has said charging Donald Trump with a crime was not an option, leading to calls for the president’s impeachment.
In his first comments on the Russia inquiry, Mueller, who was tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, said his report did not exonerate Trump.
The Guardian said his nine-minute statement was widely “construed as a signal to Congress to act on his finding that Trump sought to obstruct justice”. CNN agreed, saying Mueller “sent an unmistakable message to Congress: it's your turn”, while The Times says he “gave Democrats the green light to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump”.
Breaking his silence after two years, Mueller said: “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
Mueller explained that policy and procedure were as responsible for his decision as evidence. “A president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office,” he said. “That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view – that too is prohibited.”
Within minutes, Trump took to Twitter to say: “Nothing changes from the Mueller report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.”
However, several Democrats were quick to call for impeachment, in what CNN describes as a “Democratic pile on” in the hours following the statement. “Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately,” said Cory Booker, a senator from New Jersey, while New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said it was “time for Republicans and Democrats to begin impeachment hearings and follow the facts wherever they may lead”.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, the first major candidate to back impeachment after Mueller’s report was released last month, tweeted: “Mueller leaves no doubt: 1) He didn’t exonerate the president because there is evidence he committed crimes. 2) Justice Department policy prevented him from charging the president with any crimes. 3) The Constitution leaves it up to Congress to act – and that’s impeachment.”
The Republican side was largely silent. Justin Amash, the only Republican congressman to endorse impeachment, tweeted: “The ball’s in our court.” However, Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, said: “Mr Mueller has decided to move on and let the report speak for itself. Congress should follow his lead.”
However, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, has resisted starting impeachment proceedings because of fears such a move could give Trump an advantage in the 2020 White House election. Many believe impeachment would be blocked by Republicans.