It’s been nearly four months since special counsel Robert Mueller and his team concluded their 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and nearly three months since he released the 448-page report. On Wednesday, July 24, he testified before Congress to tell everyone that, despite Donald Trump’s insistence, the report did not exonerate the President from anything.
If you didn’t get the chance to sit through the entire hearing, don’t worry. We watched the whole thing and can report that, well, Mueller didn’t say anything new — but he did reiterate some very important points that politicians and pundits alike have misconstrued throughout the past few weeks. Here are some of the key takeaways from Mueller’s testimony:
1. Russia absolutely did interfere in the 2016 presidential election — and Mueller believes they’re still interfering
We knew this even before Mueller released his report, and were reminded of it in the aftermath of the report. The Special Counsel reiterated it during his Wednesday testimony by condemning Trump’s praise of WikiLeaks, which released emails from Hillary Clinton and other Clinton campaign staffers that had been stolen by Russian operatives. Then, he said that Russia was “doing it as we sit here,” suggesting that the foreign government may also be planning to interfere with the 2020 election — which Trump has glibly welcomed as recently as last month.
2. Trump was not exonerated
New York Democrat Congressman Jerry Nadler straight-up asked Mueller, “Did you actually totally exonerate the president?” In response, Mueller said, “No.”
At another point during the hearing, California Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff asked: “We should hold our elected officials to a standard higher than mere avoidance of criminality, correct?”
Mueller’s response: “Absolutely.”
This disputes what the president has been tweeting about since the beginning of his presidency: that he was completely exonerated by the findings of the special counsel’s report. And it seems that Trump might not have been paying attention, because after the hearing, his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, falsely stated in a press statement that “Robert Mueller confirmed what we already knew: No collusion, no obstruction, and the way President Trump has been treated is unprecedented.” Which brings us to our next point…
3. There’s one huge reason Trump wasn’t charged with obstruction of justice, and it isn’t that he wasn’t found guilty
Congressman Nadler asked Mueller whether or not it was true that even if Mueller had concluded that Trump committed the crime of obstruction, he wouldn’t be able to publicly state that. Mueller said yes, because the Department of Justice explicitly prohibits bringing criminal charges against a sitting president. Nadler asked, “But he could be prosecuted after he leaves office?” and Mueller responded: “True.”
Republican Congressman Ken Buck drove that point home when he asked Mueller, “You believe he committed — you could charge the President with obstruction of justice after he left office?” To that point, Mueller simply said: “Yes.”
The special counsel also reiterated the same statement to representative Ted Lieu. During another line of questioning, he appeared to say that he would have indicted Trump if it weren’t for the “OLC opinion,” which is a precedent from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel stating that the “indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”
Yet while a sitting president cannot be indicted, he can be impeached: Already, Representatives Al Green from Texas, New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, Massachusetts’s Ayanna Pressley, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, California’s Maxine Waters, and more than 80 other House Democrats are calling for an impeachment inquiry. Your move, Nancy Pelosi.