Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election is over, but some people want more. Robert De Niro, who has played Mueller in recent cameo appearances on Saturday Night Live, wrote an open letter to the former FBI chief in The New York Times on Wednesday. Although Mueller had just given a press conference that day summarizing the contents of his much-publicized “Mueller report,” De Niro wanted the investigator to talk about it even further.
“You’ve characterized the report as your testimony, but you wouldn’t accept that reason from anyone your office interviewed,” De Niro wrote. “Additional information and illumination emerge from responses to questions. I know you’re as uncomfortable in the spotlight as the president is out of it. I know you don’t want to become part of the political spectacle surrounding Russia’s crimes and your report on them. I know you will, however reluctantly, testify before Congress if called, because you respect the system and follow the rules, and I understand why you’d want to do it away from the public glare. But the country needs to hear your voice. Your actual voice.”
On Wednesday, Mueller spoke publicly to summarize the findings of his two-year investigation into Russian election interference and the report’s inability to clear President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice. “As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime. The introduction to volume two of our report explains that decision,” Mueller said. “It explains that under long-standing [Justice] Department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view — that too is prohibited. The Special Counsel’s Office is part of the Department of Justice and, by regulation, it was bound by that Department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”
Later in his statement, Mueller added, “the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”
Certain members of Congress took this to mean that, although Mueller had stopped short of formally indicting the president, he had presented enough evidence that political opponents could start an impeachment process against Trump.
“Mueller is playing a game of Taboo with Congress. His word is ‘impeach,'” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
Sen. Kamala Harris, who is currently running for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination, said, “What Robert Mueller basically did was return an impeachment referral. Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable. We need to start impeachment proceedings. It’s our constitutional obligation.”
Yet it’s unclear whether Democrats in the House of Representatives will actually move to impeach Trump or not. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is still firmly against it, which may explain why De Niro — a longtime critic of Trump — and others want an even more clear recommendation from Mueller.