Mueller says Congress has authority to conduct obstruction probes

Mueller says Congress has authority to conduct obstruction probes
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Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE wrote in his report that Congress has the authority to conduct obstruction of justice investigations, stating that such probes provide a check if a president is corrupt.

“With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” Mueller wrote in his more than 400-page report.

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Mueller said he reached this conclusion after his office set out to examine the past legal precedent governing such matters because the Department of Justice (DOJ) and courts have “not definitively resolved these issues."

"We therefore examined those issues through the framework established by the Supreme Court precedent governing separation-of-powers issues," he wrote.

He also noted that the DOJ and the president's legal counsel have argued that the president "is subject to statutes that prohibit obstruction of justice by bribing a witness or suborning perjury because that conduct does not implicate his constitutional authority."

Democrats will likely use Mueller's remarks as a shield to defend their half-dozen investigations into Trump's administration, businesses and campaign amid calls from Republicans for the probes to shutter.

"Clear message sent by Mueller to Congress," said Daniel Schwarz, a spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee led by Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerWant the truth? Put your money on Bill Barr, not Jerry Nadler From abortion to obstruction, politicians' hypocrisy is showing Watergate figure John Dean earns laughter for responses to GOP lawmakers MORE (D-N.Y.).

Nadler said in a statement that "[e]ven in its incomplete form, the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally MORE engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct."

 

Democratic groups like Defend the Republic have also already issued emails following the release of Mueller's report with headlines such as: "Mueller Left Obstruction Decision to Congress."

Democrats have indicated they have no plans to wind down their probes, stating that Mueller conducted a narrow investigation related to obstruction and collusion, not other matters they are examining like potential ethics violations.

Mueller's report says that the investigative team "did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government" in its election interference efforts. But the special counsel also wrote that their evidence prevents "conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred" in terms of the obstruction of justice case.

While Mueller did not make a determination on the matter either way, Barr, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and other DOJ counsels, determined that the evidence did not reach a threshold to charge Trump with obstruction — a decision Democrats say they plan to examine on their own.

Republicans say these two principal findings laid out by Barr should stand and that Democrats should stop trying to take down the president, though the GOP lawmakers have acknowledged that the Democratic-led probes are likely to continue.

Updated: 1:30 p.m.