We spent several hours today reading through the newly-released Mueller report. There's a lot to take in, but one of our favorite passages reads:
"when [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions told the President that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm fucked.' The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, 'How could you let this happen, Jeff?' The President said the position of Attorney General was his most important appointment and that Sessions had 'let [him] down,' contrasting him to Eric Holder and Robert Kennedy. Sessions recalled that the President said to him, 'you were supposed to protect me,' or words to that effect. The President returned to the consequences of the appointment and said, 'Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.'
The President then told Sessions he should resign as Attorney General. Sessions agreed to submit his resignation and left the Oval Office. [Communications advisor Hope] Hicks saw the President shortly after Sessions departed and described the President as being extremely upset by the Special Counsel's appointment. Hicks said that she had only seen the President like that one other time, when the Access Hollywood tape came out during the campaign."
Beyond just describing embarrassing anecdotes documenting the President's small-minded egomania and limited understanding of how government works, the report documents several episodes of Presidential behavior that the Special Counsel considers as potential obstructions of justice, including:
- The President's efforts to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
- The President's firing of former FBI director James Comey.
- The Presidents's efforts to assume oversight of the Mueller investigation.
- The President’s order to the White House counsel to deny that the President had tried to fire Mueller.
- The President’s conduct with regard to several associates who have pleaded guilty to crimes.
The Mueller report notes, “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.” They didn't so state, but the report does not recommend prosecution of the President by the Department of Justice, either. Instead, it notes that Congress might do so, stating, “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law."
So, far from being a "complete exoneration" of the President from any wrong-doing, the Mueller report is a challenge to Congress to live up to their vows and preserve and protect the Constitution.
Will Congress rise to the occasion?