An Open Letter to Congressman Ted Yoho Concerning the Mueller Report
(Please note: a different version of this piece originally appeared in the Gainesville Sun.)
The Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election that Robert Mueller submitted to the Department of Justice made a point to underscore the fact that it was not exonerating President Trump from obstruction of justice. It stated on page 182 of Volume II: “[If] we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
Citing Justice Department tradition, laid out in memos by its Office of Legal Counsel, Mueller’s team felt, rightly or wrongly, that they could not indict a sitting president in a court of law. The remedy for dealing with a president is not to be found in the courts, Mueller argued, but, he wrote on page 8 of Volume II: “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”
Over 900 former federal prosecutors (and counting), who served “under both Republican and Democratic administrations at different levels of the federal system” in offices in cities that were “small, medium, and large; urban, suburban, and rural; and located in all parts of our country” signed onto a letter stating that “the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”
As far as we can tell, you have not mentioned the words “obstruction of justice” when discussing the Mueller Report. You have always considered the Mueller investigation a waste of time, though. During a Town Hall in the spring of 2018, you said it should be ended and had “gone way overboard.” This during a time when indictments and guilty pleas were weekly headlines. More than once this past year you have said that the Mueller investigation should “just go away.”
During an interview with WJCB TV20 after the report was released, you described the investigation as “based on politics” rather than “something that needed to be investigated.” Without missing a beat, you called for Hillary Clinton to be investigated.
In 2016, you wrote in the Gainesville Sun that “[part] of my job, as a representative of my district, is to give the people a voice and to hold our president accountable; regardless of party.” Saying this when a Democrat was in the White House is the easiest thing in the world. The challenge, of course, holding a president from your own party accountable.
One person who did just that was Michigan Republican, Justin Amash, who has called for Trump’s impeachment. Amash’s main contention is that “Mueller’s report describes a consistent effort by the president to use his office to obstruct or otherwise corruptly impede the Russian election interference investigation because it put his interests at risk.”
Unlike you, Amash did not promise to retire from the House after this term. He has risked everything. And for this act of conscience, Amash has been roundly criticized by his party; called “a loser” by Trump; is being primaried; and was even unanimously condemned by the Freedom Caucus, which he co-founded, a caucus of which you are a member. This means you rebuked Amash for attempting to “hold our president accountable; regardless of party.”
According to the Constitution it is the duty of Congress to provide oversight over the Executive branch. Mueller’s investigation found that the Executive probably committed obstruction and the solution to that lies not in the courts but in Congress.
We are not optimistic enough to think you would call for impeachment of the President. But we do believe you should live up to your own words and hold him accountable. Trump’s blatant disregard for Congressional subpoenas is all the more reason why it is critically important for Congress to act. Congress is a separate and co-equal branch of government. If we give that up we are betraying the most fundamental basis of our government.
Where do you stand, Congressman Yoho?
PS. It has been over a year since you held a town hall in Gainesville. We would be happy to assist with setting one up in order to discuss these (and other) issues.