Robert Mueller Should Zero in On Obstruction of Justice and Issue a Report

According to what we know at this point, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team are investigating three things:

  1. How Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election
  2. Whether or not members of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia
  3. Whether or not the president attempted to obstruct justice

The investigations into the finances of Trump and his associates is tied to exploring evidence of #2, but might lead to further criminal investigations.

As we’ve heard from lawyers, especially when it comes to numbers 1 and 2 above, the investigation could go on for another one to two years. Given how Trump is escalating (see threats to North Korea and Venezuela, as well as his response to the events in Charlottesville), we might not have that long before a real disaster occurs.

When it comes to the possibility of removing Trump from the White House via impeachment, it is not likely that Congress will move on anything unless/until they receive a report from Mueller outlining potential “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It seems to me that the fastest and clearest path to that would be charges that he attempted to obstruct justice. For example, we already know that Trump:

  1. Asked for loyalty from Comey in exchange for keeping his job,
  2. Asked Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn, and
  3. Admitted publicly that he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation.

While Trump might be more concerned about what Mueller’s team will find when they investigate his finances, it seems clear that the intricacies of untangling all of that is what will take time, whereas the president himself has practically admitted to obstructing justice.

I just looked at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s letter announcing the appointment of Mueller as special counsel and a summary of his charge. Unless there is something embedded in law that isn’t included there, I see nothing that would preclude Mueller from issuing a report to Congress on the one area of obstructing justice. Doing so could force their hands to open impeachment proceedings in the House. It is very possible that Mueller could continue his probe into other areas while that is underway.

Perhaps the lawyers among us can explain why that is not a realistic option at this point. But, while many have pointed out that impeachment is a political process, I don’t see anything happening on that front based on charges that the current president is being inflammatory with our adversaries or is a white supremacist. I’d like Mueller to provide them with something. The sooner…the better.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.