According to former federal prosecutor and noted conservative columnist Andrew McCarthy, it is looking more and more likely that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will focus on obstruction of justice in his final report, leaving the question of “collusion” unanswered and brushed to the side.
While the Democrats, including many former members of the Obama administration, have screamed collusion for two years, Mueller is unlikely to have found any specific evidence linking the president to Moscow hackers. That’s McCarthy’s view, and it lines up with both what we know about the investigation and, well, common sense. To wit: If the Department of Justice had evidence that President Donald Trump was in bed with one of America’s most dangerous enemies, would they really just sit on that information for two solid years? That doesn’t make a lick of sense. There was never any collusion. It’s ridiculous on its face.
So that leaves the second tier of Mueller’s investigation, and indeed the tier that “justified” hiring him in the first place. Certainly, the DOJ/FBI had plenty of resources available to continue the collusion investigation after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. They pulled Mueller out of retirement to pursue obstruction charges, based of that firing. It was, after all, only after Trump admitted on NBC News that he’d had “the Russia thing” on his mind when dismissing Comey that Rod Rosenstein went out and hired an independent prosecutor. Never minding the fact that Rosenstein himself signed off on Comey’s firing.
But how likely is it that Mueller can make a coherent case against the president on this basis?
In his piece, McCarthy cites reporting from The New York Times indicating that Trump’s firing of Comey won’t be the central focus on obstruction allegations. Indeed, it may be Trump’s reported “attempts” to fire Mueller himself that give the special counsel ammunition for his report.
But if that’s the case, McCarthy writes, then Mueller has a problem.
“The Times reporting presages that Mueller has homed in on the parts of federal obstruction laws that address not only interference with a proceeding but also ‘attempts’ to do so. Could the special counsel be poised to argue that Trump committed obstruction by attempting to fire the special counsel?” he asks. “If that is the theory, it is meritless. In the context of the chief executive’s dismissal of subordinates, the concept of attempt is inapposite. A president either fires someone or he doesn’t.”
While McCarthy concedes that obstruction of justice can be charged against an individual even if the individual is unsuccessful is actually hindering the investigation, that reasoning flies out the window when that individual is the President of the United States. Whether or not Trump was talked out of firing Mueller by his advisers, the fact remains that he was always in a position to do so at will. That may have triggered consequences, to be sure, but it was Trump’s decision to make. As we know, he never fired Mueller. Therefore, it makes no sense for an obstruction charge to be filed.
It’s hard to imagine that Mueller, at this late date, would actually file a report filled with flimsy charges of obstruction against the president when his investigation was originally supposed to be about so much more. The charges, so much larger. The premise, so much more historic. We’re sure the Democrats will take whatever Mueller provides them and pursue impeachment, but Mueller would do himself and the country a huge favor by exonerating Trump in explicit language if he has nothing of substance to say.
If, instead, he tries to build a mountain out of a molehill, we’ll know that this was a political witch hunt all along and that Robert Mueller is every bit the crooked cop his detractors have said he is.