Credit: James Ledbetter/flickr

In the excerpt below, which I’ve taken from Volume 2, page 8 of the Mueller Report, we can clearly see that the Office of Special Counsel believes that Congress can and should exercise its “authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.” They specifically say that Congress “may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of the office,” and that doing so would “accord with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”

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With this determination, the Office of Special Counsel shows how they think justice can best be served in this case. They lay out a variety of reasons why the Department of Justice isn’t the ideal authority for dealing with a criminal president. They are also very clear that they do not have confidence “after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president [would be cleared of] obstruction of justice.” Since they did the most thorough investigation of that subject to date, the clear implication is that they believe he is guilty of committing corrupt and obstructive acts. They don’t reach that conclusion since they are not charging him and feel that it would be unfair to level the accusation if there is no official forum for the president to defend himself. And this is why they make the case that Congress and an impeachment inquiry is the proper forum.

To summarize: the Office of Special Counsel is saying that crimes have likely been committed but Congress should be the authority to investigate and possibly punish those crimes.

You can judge for yourself if this is consistent with how Attorney General William Barr has pre-spun this report for the American public. I think he’s been grossly misleading and dishonest.

House Democrats will have to decide what to do with this information. I don’t envy them. But we should all be clear that a decision not to open an impeachment inquiry, irrespective of its political wisdom or foolishness, would be giving this and future presidents a license to commit corrupt acts and obstruct justice. The Office of Special Counsel put a big matzah ball on their plate. They can choose to act on their constitutional responsibility, come what may, or they can do something less than that because they think it’s politically advantageous to punt.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at