Former U.S. attorney Joyce White Vance told Congress on Monday that former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation should be enough to “obtain a guilty verdict” on President Donald Trump.
Vance testified before the House Judiciary Committee along with several other legal experts, including Watergate figure John Dean, on the lessons from Mueller’s highly-contested report. In her remarks, Vance said that Trump would have been charged with a crime if he was not president of the United States.
“Based on my years of experience as a prosecutor, if I was assessing that evidence as to a person other than a sitting president… the facts in that report would be sufficient to prove all of the elements necessary to charge multiple counts of obstruction of justice,” Vance said. She added that the evidence is “not equivocal” and that the decision to charge Trump would not even be a “close-call.”
“I would be willing to personally indict the case and to try the case. I would have confidence that the evidence is sufficient to gain a guilty verdict and win on appeal,” Vance said.
Vance previously served as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama from 2009 to 2017. She was the first female U.S. attorney nominated by former President Barack Obama. She now teaches law at the University of Alabama andis an MSNBC commentator.
In her testimony, Vance explained it is likely that the only reason Mueller did not charge Trump was because of a longstanding Justice Department policy not to indict sitting presidents.
“Now people can debate the merits of that position,” Vance said. “But as long as that memo is in effect it binds DOJ lawyers and Robert Mueller in his consideration committed to following the law.”
In his 448-page report, Mueller investigated 10 episodes where Trump potentially obstructed justice before and throughout the two-year probe. Those events included his firing of former FBI Director James Comey, multiple attempts to have former Attorney General Jeff Sessions take over the investigation and Trump’s efforts to remove the special counsel through then-White House Counsel Don McGahn and others.
While Mueller did not make a final determination on whether Trump obstructed justice, Attorney General William Barr subsequently cleared the president of any wrongdoing shortly after the Justice Department received the report. The move stumped legal experts and raised questions about the attorney general’s credibility.
In his first public statement since the report’s release, Mueller told reporters last month that he would have exonerated Trump if he had determined the president was innocent. During that press conference, Mueller also announced his resignation from the Department of Justice.
“As I set forth in the report after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said in his televised remarks. Many believe he implied that it is now up to Congress to formally accuse the president of wrongdoing.
House Democrats are currently divided on the issue of impeachment. Thirteen of the 24 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have stated they support starting the process of removing Trump. But party leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, warn that impeachment talks could hurt the party before the 2020 election and instead have encouraged lawmakers to focus on their oversight responsibilities.
“Make no mistake,” Pelosi said last week when asked if she felt any pressure to ramp up impeachment talks. “We know exactly what path we’re on. We know exactly what actions we need to take. And while that may take more time than some people want it to take, I respect their impatience. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s important to our country.”