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Mueller Speaks: Impeachment Spark, or Double-Negative Legacy?

Mueller Speaks: Impeachment Spark, or Double-Negative Legacy?


Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller just gave a brief statement about his report on the Russian government's attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and the question of whether President Trump sought to obstruct that inquiry. Here are two takes on what Mr Mueller said.

Robert Mueller's double-negative legacy
by Willis Sparks

With his brief statement this morning, Robert Mueller leaves behind a "double negative" legacy regarding the question of whether President Trump sought to obstruct justice: we didn't have confidence that the president didn't commit a crime.

And so there's something here to disappoint both the president and his detractors.

President Trump can't be happy that Mueller made explicit in this statement that "Charging the president with a crime was not an option we could consider" under Department of Justice policy. That comment will provoke endless speculation that Trump avoided prosecution only because he's president.


But Mueller's statement is also a disappointment for Trump's critics, because he's made clear that for him to address any questions that extend beyond the text of his report, including before Congress, would be grossly unfair to the president, who can't have a trial to defend himself.

We're left with two main conclusions.

The first is political. The question of President Trump's culpability—in conspiring with the Russians to interfere in the election, in obstructing justice, or in anything else—rests entirely with Congress and a potential impeachment process. Knowing the Republican-majority Senate will not convict the president, Democrats in the House of Representatives must decide whether they have a constitutional responsibility to try to impeach him.

The second is the one Robert Mueller wants us to consider his report's true takeaway: "I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments—that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American."

Mueller Just Lit the Impeachment Fuse on Live TV
by Kevin Allison

Everything that Special Counsel Mueller said this morning was in the report he presented to the Justice Department back in March. But his brief remarks could still mark the moment that the slow-burning fuse of impeachment finally started to spark, flicker, and pick up speed.

Here' why: We're living in a TL;DR political and media age when "read the report" isn't enough. The lines between Reality TV and politics have become so blurred that to hear direct from one of the main characters in the drama – as we just did -- is likely to have a bigger impact, not only on the public but on Congress.

Mueller just stood up on live TV and stated flatly that "if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so," while emphasizing that charging a sitting president wasn't an option.

That's politically explosive in a way that the original report was not. Coming from a man whose impartiality and dedication to upholding US institutions can't reasonably be questioned, a statement like that – for the cameras -- throws the ball squarely into Congress's court.

The evidence to consider is all there, in blistering detail -- much of it beginning on page 208 of the report. Will a dysfunctional Congress – and a Democratic Party divided over the question of impeachment – move forward to do so? Mueller's clear and public statement this morning raises the stakes dramatically.

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Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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