Next Up For Impeachment? Trump’s Alleged Obstruction (And Possible Perjury) During The Mueller Investigation
The impeachment inquiry led by Democrats in the House of Representatives has so far focused on the Ukraine scandal, in which President Donald Trump appeared to pressure that nation’s leader into investigating a political rival of Trump’s, withholding U.S. military aid in order to compel them to do so, according to many State Department and national security officials, past and present, who attested to such in recent weeks.
A number of additional charges, including contempt of Congress, may also stem from the Ukraine inquiry — the White House has blocked key witness testimony from higher-ups in the administration, and has refused to allow documented information to be shared with a co-equal branch of government. But, broadly speaking, the main focus of impeachment questioning has surrounded the Ukraine situation.
That may change by the end of this month.
According to reporting from Politico, Democrats are planning to hold at least one public hearing regarding the findings spelled out in the eponymous report by special counsel Robert Mueller, of which a redacted version was released publicly earlier this year. House impeachment inquiry investigators may do so after the Thanksgiving break.
There are, of course, a number of reasons why Democrats may want to bring the report back into the limelight. In spite of Trump repeatedly stating that the report resulted in his “complete and total exoneration,” that wasn’t the case: Mueller actually found 10 instances in his report that indicated Trump may have engaged in acts of obstructing the investigation.
Indeed, Mueller, speaking publicly about his report, made clear that he didn’t say Trump was exonerated. “The president was not exculpated for the acts he allegedly committed,” Mueller told Congress in testimony.
Schiff: "The day after [Mueller testified], Donald Trump is back on the phone, asking another nation to involve itself in another US election. That says to me, this president believes he is above the law—beyond accountability. And in my view, there is nothing more dangerous.” pic.twitter.com/nCjCkqdGot
— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) November 21, 2019
Before speaking with Congress, Mueller made a public statement at a press briefing saying essentially the same thing. “If we had confidence the President did not commit a crime, we would have said so” in the report, the special counsel said.
But while Democrats may look back at those findings, there’s also new evidence to consider: the possibility that Trump committed perjury during that investigation.
During testimony for the trial of former Trump confidant Roger Stone, former Trump deputy campaign manager Rick Gates signaled that there were discrepancies between the president’s written deposition to Mueller in his investigation. Gates stated that Stone and Trump had discussed the issue of a Wikileaks dump of emails from the Democratic Party’s servers, and that Gates’s boss, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, had regularly briefed Trump on Wikileaks.
That testimony contradicted what Trump had said. “I do not recall being told during the campaign that Roger Stone or anyone associated with my campaign had discussions with any of the entities named in the question [including WikiLeaks] regarding the content or timing of release of hacked emails,” Trump told Mueller.
Democrats are now seeking grand jury documents that have not yet been made available to them, citing them as important for the ongoing impeachment inquiry, and noting Gates’s testimony in particular as reason why they’re needed.
It’s unclear how aggressive or not Democrats will be in including Mueller’s findings, as well as Gates’s testimony, within their final recommendations on impeachment. But it’s a good bet that obstruction of justice (and possibly perjury) by the president will be included alongside worrisome actions discovered within the Ukraine scandal over the past few months.