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- Author John Philips
- Published August 14, 2019
- Word count 866
Congress must launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump — immediately. Former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees Wednesday has left us with no other rational course of action. Doing so isn’t about partisan advantage in 2020; it’s not even about Trump. Impeaching him is about protecting America.
Here is why: We heard — in Mueller’s own voice, without the president’s and attorney general’s distortions — that the special counsel’s investigation uncovered Russia’s "sweeping and systematic" interference in the 2016 election, and the Trump campaign’s embrace of this help and the president’s obstruction of justice during the investigation of it. It’s clear that Russia interfered in our election. It’s clear that it did so to help Trump win, and it’s clear that Trump benefited from Russia’s help and asked them to help further.
"Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious," Mueller told the Judiciary Committee. Hours later, asked in the Intelligence Committee hearing whether future political campaigns could accept foreign interference, he replied, "I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is."
Were the Mueller hearings a disaster for Democrats? Only if you weren't listening
Yet this president has refused to fully acknowledge Russia’s interference and preference for him in the election, has refused to take action to protect against future foreign interference and has explicitly invited future interference by saying he might accept damaging information about rivals from foreign agents without reporting it to the FBI.
Furthermore, six Trump associates have been convicted of or charged with lying about Russia-related contacts, and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort ordered his deputy, Rick Gates, to delete messages related to such contacts. Mueller agreed under questioning Wednesday that if a witness or suspect lies or destroys evidence, such actions can be used in court to demonstrate consciousness of guilt.
Mueller gave the president plenty of opportunity to clear the air and his name by testifying under oath about his actions during the campaign and after he discovered the existence of the investigation. It’s clear that the president refused — and that he met, called or corresponded with Russian President Vladimir Putin 20 times after taking office but never once met with Mueller.
It’s clear that Mueller found multiple instances where Trump’s actions met all three of the required elements for charging criminal obstruction of justice — including firing FBI Director James Comey, trying to fire Mueller, trying to have people lie and cover up for him, trying to impede the investigation and trying to tamper with witnesses who were cooperating with investigators. And it’s clear that anyone who is not a sitting president but had acted in such a way would face criminal prosecution immediately: More than 1,000 former prosecutors have signed onto a letter saying so.
These are violations of law and a gross betrayal of America.
Mueller told us in no uncertain terms that Trump has not been exonerated of obstruction of justice: He found evidence of abuses of power by the president, and said the president could be indicted for obstruction after he leaves office.
Were the Mueller hearings a disaster for Democrats? Only if Americans weren't really listening
NBC’s Pete Williams: ‘This is not the same Robert Mueller’ from previous hearings
Trump nonetheless trumpets his baseless claims that he has been exonerated. I would offer that, if he’s so innocent, he should lift his own Justice Department’s ban on indicting a sitting president.
I’ve tried hard not just to investigate the president's actions but also to legislate to protect against future interference in other campaigns. I’ve introduced the Duty to Report Act, requiring federal candidates and campaigns to notify law enforcement if they are offered assistance by agents of another government. Doing so has long been a matter of the "honor code" among campaigns — but obviously that is not enough in the case of a candidate or campaign that is utterly lacking in honor. When foreign adversaries seek to meddle in our elections, silence cannot be an option.
And I’ve coauthored the No President Is Above the Law Act, which would pause the statute of limitations for any federal offense committed by a sitting president, whether it was committed before or during the president’s term of office. This would ensure that presidents can be held accountable for criminal conduct — just like every other American — and not use the presidency to avoid legal consequences.
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But legislation alone won’t cut it — especially with the Senate majority leader standing ready to obstruct any and all efforts to hold this president accountable. Despite my Republican colleagues’ blatant attempts to derail the hearings and distract from the truth Wednesday, Mueller’s testimony laid bare this president’s disdain for the rule of law. It’s time for Congress to step up and exercise its constitutional duty.
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