Editorial: Mueller has now twice made clear Trump’s criminal obstruction demands an impeachment inquiry

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Despite shrill and desperate spin coming from the White House and congressional defenders, hours of testimony Wednesday by special counsel Robert Mueller made clear — again — that President Donald Trump indisputably tried repeatedly to obstruct an investigation into alleged collusion with Russia.

Mueller reiterated exactly what he spelled out in his 448-page report from May: Trump is guilty of trying to obstruct the Russia collusion investigation. Mueller repeated in testimony Wednesday that charges against Trump were not considered because of a long-standing, untested legal theory that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.

But it was Colorado’s own Republican Congressman Ken Buck who inadvertently zeroed in on the message every American needs to take to heart. In a moment of questioning at the House Judiciary Committee, Buck hit pay-dirt.

“You believe that…you could charge the President of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?” Buck asked — twice.

“Yes,” Mueller said — twice.

And it’s clear prosecutors would win that case. Incident after incident detailed in the voluminous report retells how Trump connived to control his former attorney general Jeff Sessions and extort him into firing Mueller. And the evidence is clear that Trump worked in other ways to manipulate the special counsel investigation into his campaign’s coordination with Russians to get dirt on the Clinton campaign.

Trump tried early on to influence former FBI Director James Comey. He then fired him when he didn’t get what he wanted. When Mueller was appointed as special counsel, Trump admitted that Mueller’s appointment — with sterling credentials and dogged determination to provide justice — was “the end of his presidency.” Trump demanded that Sessions un-recuse himself and ultimately resign.

The blatantly criminal obstructions continued. When Trump learned that he was personally under investigation for obstruction, he began publicly and privately trying to undermine Mueller and the investigation itself.   

Trump also sent out repeated missives saying he would pardon people if they were tripped up during FBI inquiries.

The list of clear criminal behavior is substantial and inarguable.

The only defense faithful members of Congress were able to mount yesterday were melodramatic excuses for his criminal behavior, not legal defenses nor proof that he didn’t commit the crimes.

To say that Trump is justified in obstructing justice because he “knew” he was innocent of colluding with Russians is anathema to the American rule of law. No one is above it, even the president. 

From the beginning, Trump has built his presidency on a foundation of prolific and provable lies. He has no credibility among scrupulous and savvy members of Congress and the American public.

Even today, Trump is corruptly trying to head off an inevitable prosecution for using the unparalleled power of his office to try to hide crimes. He’s again trying to cover up dubious if not patently illegal coordination with Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election. And he’s trying to hide how he used his power again to try and scuttle an investigation into his patently illegal obstruction.

These criminal acts are separate from his endless mendacity, his uninhibited racism, his cruelty toward immigrants, his extortion of members of his own party, and his malfeasance on several levels of executing his duties.

Trump has repeatedly proven himself to be a brutish and corrupt man who has sullied the office of the presidency and this nation as no other American politician has ever done before.

It’s unthinkable that voters would return this proven criminal to office in 2020. But it’s almost as unthinkable that Democrats and Republicans alike would protect their own political parties and careers rather than do what is ethical and right by holding Trump accountable for his crimes through an impeachment inquiry and Senate trial.

We can only hope that Trump has not dragged this entire nation down to his lamentable level. We can only hope there are enough members of Congress who will fight to do what’s right, even if it’s fraught with personal or partisan political peril.

Begin an impeachment inquiry now.