Thursday, May 30, 2019

Mr. Mueller Should Speak for the Report that Does Not Speak for Itself

Neil Siegel

Yesterday former Special Counsel Robert Mueller said that his 448-page report on (1) Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and (2) potential obstruction of justice by the President speaks for itself. His report emphatically does not speak for itself. In order to understand what the report is finding, stating, and seemingly implying without explaining, one has to do more than read the whole thing, which few Americans have time or ability to do. One also must be a sophisticated lawyer, which few Americans are or will become any time soon.

The report no more speaks for itself than this statement from Mr. Mueller: "If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so." Among other problems, the word "clearly" is doing a lot of unexplained work in that inaccessible formulation, and its use obfuscates more than it clarifies given the report's findings--which I discuss in my analysis of the Mueller Report--that on several occasions the President satisfied the three elements of an obstruction offense.

Imagine your child answered your questions the way Mr. Mueller answered the questions he was charged with investigating.

You: "Did your friends make that mess in the kitchen?"

Your kid: "If I had confidence that my friends clearly didn't make that mess in the kitchen, I would have said so."

You: "Huh?"

Your kid: "My statement speaks for itself. I shouldn't be required to talk about this matter any further."

I understand that the analogy is imperfect, as all analogies are. But come on. Mr. Mueller should testify. Americans need to see the movie and not be left with what they are likely to experience as a Zen koan of a book.

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