Debate Over Trump Impeachment Follows Facts Revealed in Redacted Mueller Report

Interview with Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, conducted by Scott Harris

Is it time to initiate House impeachment proceedings? In the days since Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of the long-awaited Mueller report, the 448-page document reveals major contradictions between what Barr told the nation in his earlier four-page summary and press conference, and what the report actually says.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said that Barr “deliberately distorted significant portions of Special Counsel Mueller’s report” in an effort to give the document a positive spin on the president’s behalf.  The areas where Barr misled the nation included sanitizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusion that the Trump campaign had indeed been complicit with Russian interference in the 2016 election, but that those activities fell short of what he defined as “coordination.” Mueller also directly contradicts Barr’s summary to state that he declined to prosecute President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice, based solely on a Justice Department legal opinion saying that the Justice Department can’t indict a sitting president – and explicitly asserts that Congress should be the body to now determine whether or not Trump should be held accountable for obstructing justice.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, who examines Barr’s mishandling of the Mueller report’s release, the Democratic party-controlled House’s consummate duty to pursue accountability for presidential misconduct, and whether or not to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump.

KAREN HOBERT FLYNN: I believe that the attorney general has diminished the credibility of the Department of Justice and it is not completely clear to me whether he will be cooperating by providing the unredacted version of the Mueller report as well as the underlying evidence to Congress and the committees that need to do further investigation. His handling of this was in my mind, appalling. First sending a memo describing and I think, you know, really kind of whitewashing what this report did, and said basically that it was an exoneration of Trump. And in his press conference that he held the morning before the redacted report was sent over to Congress and before reporters had a chance to even read it or the American public, he announced that this was an exoneration of Trump, that Trump fully cooperated with the investigation, which is a complete joke. Really had a couple of chances to do PR and messaging that helped Donald Trump brag in both instances in the initial letter that he sent and this press conference that it was a complete exoneration, no collusion, no obstruction and continuing to lie about both the investigation, which was a real and concrete investigation and also about the outcome of it.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Karen, one of the big debates right now within the Democratic Party, which controls the House of Representatives, is where do they go now? Do they move towards impeachment hearings? Do they further investigate? Do they make calculations that impeachment probably won’t pass muster in the Senate, which is controlled by the Republicans? So bypass impeachment.? There’s lot roiling within the Democratic Party right now. What’s your view of what should take place at this moment?

KAREN HOBERT FLYNN: Without a doubt, an impeachment process is a political process. The power to do this is mandated in the Constitution that the House of Representatives has the ability to conduct an investigation to hold the president accountable because no one is above the law. And so, they could begin investigations, impeachment investigations to look at the issues that have come up in this report, dig deeper to see the underlying evidence. And also there are, and I’ve seen 10 or 14 other investigations happening. So there is a lot more to come. One of the challenges I think we face and others face that want to take a look at how we bring this administration to justice is that so much of the investigation has happened behind closed doors and the American people haven’t seen much of it. And it can be really compelling when you hear someone testify. Think about when Michael Cohen testified about his interactions with Trump and the hush money payments and everything else. That is compelling to hear it from other people.

And so I think one of the things that has to happen and whether they’re impeachment hearings or just House oversight, judiciary and intelligence hearings, they need to be conducting investigations to get more information about what Mueller discovered. Have Barr testify to hear about his perspective and why he came out with what he did. Why when they were presenting this, Mueller wasn’t standing there? And I think it’s very important to hear Mueller’s perspective of what he’s found so that we can get to the bottom of this. And I actually think as they continue to look at more information, including the ongoing investigations, they can make the decision about whether they pursue impeachment. Some have talked about censure, but I think the most important thing is that we do not let this abuse of power and obstruction of justice continue.

It gives the green light to others to think they’re an imperial president that can ignore our democratic norms and values and institutions. And so that is some of, I think, you know what leaders in the House are grappling with. In fact, I believe (Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi had, you know, a phone call with leaders in the House to be talking through these issues.

For more information on Common Cause, visit commoncause.org.

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