After 2 years of investigating collusion between Russia and President’s Trump campaign, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has released his report. His conclusions are very clear:
- “…[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” (Report Volume I, Page 2)
- “…this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime…” (Report Volume II, Page 182)
In our criminal justice system, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Mueller does not conclude the President committed a crime, so he remains innocent under the law.
However, many Democrats react differently to the Mueller Report. They claim that since the Mueller Report doesn’t conclude that Trump definitely did not commit a crime and doesn’t fully exonerate him, Trump should still be investigated. They are looking specifically at the charge against Trump, not of collusion or coordination with Russia, but with obstruction of justice. Obstruction of Justice is when someone knowingly “engages in misleading conduct towards another person,” intimidates, threatens, or persuades someone corruptly in order to interfere or delay a criminal investigation. Alan Dershowitz is a leading civil liberties attorney who is a professor at Harvard Law School. He states that Trump cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice, because all of the President’s actions that Democrats think are acts of obstruction were within the President’s constitutional power. The constitution grants the president authority to do certain things. His control over the executive branch gives his the ability to appoint (with the advice and consent of the Senate) and fire the Director of the FBI, for example. Democrats say that Trump was trying to interfere and impede upon the Russia investigation by firing James Comey, the FBI Director at the time. However, Dershowitz says that the constitution gives Trump this power, so he can’t be guilty of a crime for exercising his constitutionally-delegated power. Ultimately, Mueller spent 2 years searching for a crime. He was working full-time with a team of lawyers to investigate the President and all his associates in-depth. He did not find enough evidence to conclude that they illegally colluded with Russia or that President Trump obstructed justice. All Mueller can say is that he can’t conclude that the President did not obstruct justice—even though the legal standard is whether you can conclude that the person did obstruct justice and break the law.
It’s possible that House Democrats might impeach President Trump. All that is needed is a majority vote in the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by the Democrats. Remember what impeachment means, however. Impeachment is not the same as removal from office. Impeachment is defined as “a charge of misconduct made against the holder of a public office.” In a criminal case, a grand jury can charge someone with a crime, then they will go to trial and a jury will either convict (find guilty) or acquit (find not guilty) the individual of the accused crime. Likewise, if the House of Representatives impeaches, the it is charging Donald Trump with a crime. However, it is the Senate who actually holds the trial. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would preside of the judge and the Senate would decide whether or not Trump is guilty of the charges brought by the House. In the Senate, the standard is much higher. Two-thirds of the Senate (66 Senators) would have to agree that Trump is guilty in order to remove him from office. I think it is highly unlikely that the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans could muster 66 votes in favor of removal from office—especially since the Mueller Report didn’t even conclude that a crime had been committed. However, since the Mueller Report shifted the burden of proof to the President saying that Trump didn’t prove that he was innocent, we will likely have to deal with the great debate of impeachment and potentially a long-drawn out trial with numerous hearings in the coming months.