“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Perhaps second only to the mantra of “my body, my choice,” the above-mentioned quote from the 448-page report eponymously named after the Democratic Party’s favorite old white guy (sorry, Biden) has been continuously regurgitated by Democrats in paroxysms of disgust towards the president. Almost instantly upon the release of the report to the public, the excerpt spread rapidly through the news and Twitterverse, serving as the “smoking gun” to impeach Trump.
This is not surprising. The statement certainly does not, on a net basis, help the president. The axiom wasn’t just stated once in the report but twice, and Mueller repeated it a third time during his once in a blue moon public statement on Wednesday, in which Democrats, again, took as it as a call for impeachment.
As legal scholar Jonathan Turley put it comparatively, to Democrats, Mueller is the Moses in the Age of Trump. Coming down from the slopes of Mount Sinai — or in this case, Washington —, Mueller demanded that no one shall question the findings of his onerous 2-year-long investigation. Like Moses’ findings, we must accept Mueller’s determinations — or in this case, non-derminations — with complete and utter faith. He’s the prophet here — the Excalibur of corruption in the White House.
Mueller did not assume the judicial duties his role entailed, though. Instead of serving as prosecutor, he served as the judicial triad, composed of judge, jury, and executioner.
It’s important to note that the aforementioned excerpt regards the decision Mueller made on obstruction, which was the subject matter of the second volume of the report. In the first volume, which regards collusion — specifically conspiracy and coordination — Mueller came to a conclusive assertion, writing:
The verdict is clear: as no evidence was found that the Trump Campaign willingly “colluded” with the Russian government, Trump and his Campaign are innocent of any wrongdoings initially alleged against them. That’s the notion of innocent until proven guilty — the foundation of American jurisprudence. A prosecutor’s obligation is not to exonerate someone or to prove one’s innocence; a prosecutor’s duty is to investigate alleged criminal activity and to prove that the suspect committed said crime.
Mueller’s “determination” on obstruction, therefore, is judicially bankrupt. By just looking at the report alone, his conclusion ignores the presumption of innocence an individual entails and chooses instead to denigrate the president with a negative narrative in the court of public opinion, to which the president can not defend or respond to in a court of law. Volume two of the report details eleven potential incidents in which Trump may have obstructed justice. For obstruction to occur, though, intent has to be present, and the special counsel presumably could not find sufficient evidence to prove that Trump actually intended to obstruct the investigation. The incidents laid out in the report make Trump look insanely unpresidential; they do not, however, rise to the level of criminality.
In any investigation, if the prosecutor can not find sufficient evidence that the suspect committed a crime, the suspect is presumed innocent. This is not the suspect being exonerated; this is the suspect retaining their presumption of innocence.
However, to Mueller, a lack of evidence does not indicate that the suspect, Trump, is innocent. In his statement on Wednesday, Mueller stated that “if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said that.”
Again, this does not make one bit of sense. If a lack of evidence indicating that an individual committed a crime is found, the person is presumed to not have committed that crime.
What if Mueller’s principle of criminality was applied to all cases?
Imagine, for instance, that you are at the supermarket when a robbery occurs. The police arrive, catch the suspects, and all appears to be concluded. However, the next week, the prosecution announces that because you were at the store at the time of the robbery, they cannot definitively prove that you did not partake in the incident. You are presumed to be guilty unless evidence can be found conclusively proving that you did not partake in the robbery. Even if no evidence is found showing that you did partake in the robbery, no evidence is found indicating that you didn’t, and that’s what matters more.
This is the paradoxical principle utilized in the Mueller investigation’s findings regarding obstruction. During the two-year saga, Trump retained a presumption of guilt — an assumption he still entails upon the conclusion of the probe. In his report, Mueller clearly implies that Trump may have potentially obstructed justice. The investigation found a lack of evidence proving that Trump did obstruct justice, but it also found a lack of evidence that Trump didn’t obstruct justice. In any other investigation, Trump would be considered innocent, but in Mueller’s world, it was never proven that Trump did not participate in criminal activity. The lack of evidence proving Trump’s innocence matters far more to Mueller than the lack of evidence indicating Trump’s criminality does, despite that being the complete inverse of a prosecutor’s role, and ultimately, the American judicial system.
Again, it cannot be understated how ludicrous this principle is. If this was applied to any case regarding murder, theft, or just any crime in general, no one would ever be presumed innocent. No evidence was found that you didn’t murder someone? Doesn’t matter. There’s still a potential chance that you did, and therefore you’re not innocent. The prosecution could not find any evidence that you physically attacked your wife? No matter. We’re still going to imply that you potentially did beat your wife.
This is why Attorney General William Barr, unlike Mueller, did reach a conclusion on obstruction. Because there was no evidence that Trump had actual intent to obstruct justice, and because there was no underlying crime of collusion found, no obstruction occurred, Barr states. He received hell for his conclusion. Mueller received praise for his.
Ignoring the presumption of innocence is a scary precedent for the special counsel to establish. With being such a fundamental principle of our judicial system, it must be triumphed, not dissolved. Mueller’s assertion that a lack of evidence proving criminality does not presume one’s innocence will be remembered as the prime example of judicial impartialness coinciding with partisan lust.