President Donald Trump pleaded his case via Twitter Thursday after the Justice Department released a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. He tweeted a “Game of Thrones”-like image, along with “No Collusion. No Obstruction. For all the haters and the radical left democrats – Game Over.” But Democratic lawmakers say the matter is anything but over. At a press conference Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler called for more hearings, and said it was Congress’ duty to hold the president accountable.
Steve Vladeck, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says the special counsel found “more than nothing,” but that Mueller chose not to go further because of Justice Department policy that makes it difficult or impossible to indict a sitting president. Instead, Mueller “wanted to kick the can to Congress,” Vladeck says.
The Mueller report includes detailed analysis of how and whether the Justice Department could prosecute the president. But Vladeck says Mueller had limited authority, working under the attorney general.
“Mueller really didn’t have the authority to go beyond what the attorney general, and prior attorneys general, have decreed,” Vladeck says. “I think that’s part of why he wrote the report the way he did, to lay out as compelling a factual case as he could.”
Impeachment is the method by which Congress could act, Vladeck says. But impeachment is a political process, not a legal one.
“When President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, but not successfully removed, it was Republicans, many of whom are still in Congress, who went out of their way to emphasize that impeachment does not require a criminal act. Impeachment can be basically for misconduct – conduct unbecoming [for] a president,” Vladeck says.
Even if the Trump campaign did not work directly with Russia to try to influence the 2016 election, Vladeck says the Mueller report shows that there is evidence the campaign was aware of Russian efforts that benefited Trump.
“I think what the report is really saying is that there was a whole lot of really shady, improper, inappropriate conduct from the bottom of the Trump campaign to the top of the Trump campaign,” Vladeck says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.