“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
I know, I know. We were hoping for a Christmas in March with subpoena paperwork for ribbons and indictments as bows on court case filings. Instead, many of us got a gut punch. But hey, lucky for you my legal eagle brain is still working for you and I am here to bring you holiday joy despite the report. Seriously, don ‘t let the shouts of joy from the White House distract from the truth: THIS IS NOT AN EXONERATION.
Remember, every legal battle is a constant barrage of moving parts. Sometimes evidence doesn’t get in. Some evidence isn’t good enough to carry the burden required (like “by the preponderance of the evidence” or “beyond reasonable doubt” or “reasonable, articulable suspicion”). Right now, prosecutors in Georgia are fighting a serious uphill battle regarding DUI’s because a case called “Elliot” said not only can the refusal of any testing to find out how drunk a driver is can not be used against them, but no RESULTS of any breath test can be used either. So if a driver is DRUNK, like blew a .24 (3 times the legal limit), the court will never hear that part of the trial. The case has to be proved by a myriad of other evidence, but not breath test results and prosecutors can no longer say “S/he refused the tests because s/he KNEW s/he was drunk and would be caught if they took the tests.” Nope. All that is out. I sincerely hope no one gets hit by a drunk driver and if they do, I hope they get a warrant for a blood test to determine blood-alcohol content. I digress.
My point is, no evidence does not necessarily mean zero evidence. It can mean no admissible evidence. It can also mean no evidence that means the standard of the burden of proof, whatever that may be.
Maybe there was some proof. Maybe it was all circumstantial, meaning not enough of it there to convince reasonable people of a slam dunk. Maybe the proof was weak, or scattered. A piece here, a shred here, another slice of evidence over there, some a month ago, some years ago. Not enough in one place at one time to build a strong enough mousetrap to catch a presidential sized rat.
You also need to remember that some of the evidence that would be used at a trial would be testimony evidence from witnesses. How many liars has Mueller caught? Anyone remember or kept count? Well, as prosecutors like to say, “were you lying then or are you lying now?” The implication being, look you’re a liar. What you say is completely unreliable and not worth the weight of the breath you used to utter it. So how exactly would Mueller build a case on the backs of renowned, indicted, sentenced, liars? You can’t, not one good enough to take down the president, and Mueller is a prosecutor. He knows this.
Further, Mueller (and most American citizens) know that there are not enough votes in Congress for an impeachment. Even Mueller could bring charges, there just isn’t enough legal support to back him up. That lack of support on current charges also would mean double jeopardy would attach and any and all charges against the president would not only go nowhere, but would be precluded from coming at him again, like say when there were enough votes to oust him.
Current legal conventional consensus is that you can’t bring charges against a sitting president. So why would Mueller bother to release findings knowing full well that he couldn’t bring charges, he wouldn’t have support, and double jeopardy could attach. He’s not a dumb prosecutor. This isn’t his first rodeo. He’s not going to tip his hand.
I am gonna reserve judgment to see what the entirety of the report says, but right now I just see Mueller biding his time and lining everything up perfectly for when the time is right. That time is not now. That time may not be soon. It’s just not now.
(I’d also like to think Mueller is lulling everyone in the Trump circle into a false sense of security but have zero reason to hope for that)