Blueprint for Impeachment—The Mueller Report

Monday, April 22, 2019
(graphic: Wikipedia/Impeachment March)

I took the liberty of reading the entire Mueller Report, including the appendices, before reading or listening to any commentary by others.


There are two parts to the Report, one dealing with Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. election and the other dealing with possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump and others.


Impeachable Offenses

Let me start with the question of obstruction of justice because it is the most startling. Without using the word “impeachment,” Mueller and his team bluntly present the evidence that Trump has committed multiple impeachable offenses.


Mueller considers eleven possible areas of obstruction. To each of these, he applies the three criteria that must be met to qualify legally as obstruction. These are:

1. an obstructive act

2. a nexus between the obstructive act and an official proceeding

3. a corrupt intent.


In some cases, Mueller writes that the acts do not rise to the level of legal obstruction of justice. But the majority do. These relate to:

  • Trump’s conduct concerning the investigation of Michael Flynn
  • Trump’s reaction to public confirmation of the FBI’s Russia investigation
  • Events leading up to and surrounding the termination of FBI director James Comey
  • Trump’s efforts to remove Special Counsel Robert Mueller
  • Trump’s efforts to curtail the special counsel’s investigation
  • Trump’s efforts to have Attorney General Jeff Sessions take over the investigation
  • Trump ordering White House Counsel Don McGahn to deny that Trump tried to fire Mueller
  • Trump’s conduct towards Paul Manafort
  • Trump’s conduct involving Michael Cohen



Citing extensive examples of case law, including Supreme Court decisions, Mueller obliterates the arguments presented by Trump’s attorneys in their attempts to say that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted for obstruction of justice.


Mueller concludes, “…if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”


The Report quotes an 1882 ruling, United States v. Lee: “[n]o [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law.” This opinion was written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Freeman Miller, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Abraham Lincoln. For the record, here is Miller’s actual quote: “No man in this country is so high that he is above the law. No officer of the law may set that law at defiance with impunity. All the officers of the government, from the highest to the lowest, are creatures of the law, and are bound to obey it. It is the only supreme power in our system of government, and every man who by accepting office participates in its functions is only the more strongly bound to submit to that supremacy, and to observe the limitations which it imposes upon the exercise of the authority which it gives.”


In a world in which justice and democracy took precedence over party politics, Donald Trump would be impeached, convicted and booted out of the White House. Alas, we do not appear to live in such a world. Even if the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives saw fit to impeach Trump, the Republican-controlled Senate would probably acquit him. Back on July 27, 1974, six of 17 Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee joined with the Democrats to move forward with articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon for obstruction of justice. Twelve days later, as Republican support for Nixon eroded, Nixon announced his resignation rather than face an impeachment trial. But the majority of Republican senators of 2019 do not seem to be able to meet the moral standards of the Republicans of 1974.


The Russian Connection

For quite some time, Russian agents had been infiltrating U.S. political circles on social media. The goal was to cause chaos and dissension among Americans. Whether the topic was immigration or Black Lives Matter or even the anti-vaccination movement, the Russians would rile up both sides of an issue, making people angrier and angrier. In a way, this was just the digital age equivalent of standard spycraft and disruption of an enemy, something the United States might do as well. But, as the 2016 election drew closer, the Russian government, presumably on orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin, decided that Donald Trump was the person they wanted to become president of the United States, and they went to great lengths to get what they wanted.


Russian interference in the U.S. electoral process took two forms: hacking into Democratic databases, which was carried out by Putin’s military, and an elaborate scheme to support Trump by whipping up anti-Hillary Clinton emotions online and even embedding Russian spies inside the United States to organize pro-Trump rallies. These interventions were funded by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a businessman friend of Vladimir Putin (thus technically isolating the activities from a connection with the Russian government). It is clear that the Russians wanted to make contact with the Trump Campaign, and that the Trump Campaign wanted to make contact with anyone who could provide “dirt” about Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, this section of the Mueller Report is heavily redacted.


A lot of attention is given to a meeting at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, during which Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign manager Paul Manafort thought they were going to receive some juicy anti-Clinton dirt from Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya. They got nothing, and Donald Jr. expressed disgust at this waste of time. Nonetheless, this meeting was a clear violation of federal campaign law, which prohibits seeking or receiving campaign aid from non-Americans.


So why did Mueller not charge Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort? The answer would be funny if it was not such a pathetic commentary on the U.S. electoral system. A successful prosecution of violation of campaign finance laws must prove that the accused parties knew that they were breaking the law. Although President Trump would later go to great lengths to cover up details of this meeting, Mueller determined that at the time of meeting, Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort did not know it was illegal to receive campaign aid from foreigners. Apparently, a lifetime of believing people who are born rich are not subject to the same laws as everyone else saved Trump Jr. and Kushner from prosecution.

-David Wallechinsky


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