Yoni Appelbaum: The Mueller report is an impeachment referral
Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, declined to comment on whether the special counsel would agree to appear voluntarily, but Barr indicated to reporters that he would not stand in Mueller’s way. “I have no objection to Bob Mueller personally testifying,” he said.
It was what Barr said in that press briefing—along with his previous characterizations of the report—that Democrats will surely want to ask Mueller about. In his report, the special counsel explained in considerable detail his decision not to reach a conclusion about whether the president committed a crime, and made clear that the report “does not exonerate him.” Yet the attorney general chose to characterize the conclusions more favorably for Trump and made his own decision to clear the president of obstruction. “The differences are stark between what Attorney General Barr said on obstruction and what Special Counsel Mueller said on obstruction,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement on Thursday. “As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice, while Mueller’s report appears to undercut that finding.”
Nadler said that the report contradicts several statements Barr made in his press conference, including the matter of whether Trump “fully cooperated” with the investigation even as he refused to be interviewed on the obstruction question. “For example,” Nadler wrote in a statement, “the Special Counsel concluded that a ‘thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would have risen to personal and political concerns.’ Barr excluded this critical finding from his version of events.”
Read: 14 must-read moments from the Mueller report
Nadler later told reporters in Manhattan that based on his initial skimming of the report, “it was probably written with the intent of providing Congress a road map.” Barr, he said, “seems to be trying to frustrate that intent.” Whether that road might lead to impeachment is unclear. “That is one possibility,” Nadler said.
Asked what he would want to hear from Mueller, the chairman replied: “There are dozens of things we want to hear.”
Democrats will want Mueller to clarify what, if any, role he believes that Congress should play, and whether his decision to avoid a definitive determination on obstruction was a nod to the legislative branch’s constitutional prerogative on impeachment. At one point, Mueller writes: “With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.”