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Elie Mystal Nails The Problem With Institutionalists

In this AM Joy discussion, Elie Mystal and Midwin Charles speak bold and painful truth about the Mueller report and what it means for the only way forward for Democrats.

As can have been expected, most of Saturday morning's AM Joy show focused on the Mueller Report, and how Democrats should consider shaping their response. It was a refreshing change from Thursday's and Friday's coverage, which seemed to take a cautious, "let's be practical" approach to how to proceed — especially regarding impeachment. What has felt like a lying down, playing dead response from many of the liberal talking heads has been infuriating. As always, Joy Reid's panel had a super cross-section of opinions, but the majority brought the message home with force that this is not a time to play timid.

Joyce Vance (whom I love - let's be clear) played the role of the calming, this is how things are supposed to work, let's give it time, and Mueller was respecting the rule of law kind of role, particularly when it came to the OLC memo. But guess what? The ultimate rule of law in this land is the Constitution, and it is extremely clear about the circumstances under which Congress not only a right, but a duty to impeach when our executive branch is in the hands of someone like Trump.

Reid, Midwin Charles, and Elie Mystal were quick to point that out. Joy Reid cut in to say, emphatically, "But it's not the rule of law, it's just a MEMO that they cite that says you can't prosecute a sitting president. So, there is no LAW that says you can't do it." Charles agreed, pointing out how the only thing supporting the rule against indicting a sitting president is tradition. She said, "There is no law that says it. The Supreme Court hasn't ruled on it. It is not in the Constitution. It is astonishing to me." Then Mystal chimed in with one of his incisive and hilarious analogies.

MYSTAL: Part of this is the problem with institutionalists. The house is on fire and the institutionalists are like, "Well, I control the elevator." Okay, the HOUSE is on fire. Let's use the elevator to get up there and save some people! and the institutionalists: "Well they say you can't operate the elevator under a fire." At some point, obviously Mueller didn't want to get his hands dirty. I understand that there is the rule, I understand that there's the OLC memo. But at some point, I think Mueller got more concerned with Mueller's reputation as opposed to risking Mueller's reputation, risking — look, the right wing would have been very angry if he violated that memo. But Mueller could have said, "You know what? This is an extraordinary situation, we are under extraordinary circumstances, the Attorney General is not Attorney General for the people, he's Attorney General for Donald Trump and i'm going to use whatever authority I can think of to try to get this man."


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Whoa. That was actually some pretty damning shade he throws at Mueller. And honestly, I cannot disagree with him. It's enraging and terrifying at the same time that he wasn't able to recognize exactly what he was dealing with in terms of how his report would be handled by Trump's hand-picked AG. Then Reid teed up the question for the ages. By not indicting Trump, has Mueller essentially said that presidents have carte blanche to do whatever they please? Legal or not?

CHARLES: Not just presidents but candidates. If we allow this to stand, what it means is that tomorrow, Mayor Pete Buttigieg can put out a call to Iran, and say, "Hey, do you have any information? Help me out!" Kamala Harris tomorrow can call China and say, "Listen, what information do you have on other people who are running against me for the nomination?" That is one of the reasons why we have a system of law and order and justice. It is for precedent. If nothing is done now, it sets this horrible precedent that anybody else can walk in and say, let me take that call from that foreign adversary.

Reid and Vance then discussed the notion, sad as it is, that now, in order to repair the democracy, it will need to be codified into law that people seeking the presidency may not seek the assistance of foreign governments. I mean, every other candidate in our nation's history understood and respected this, but now? Our democracy has been broken. And it won't be fixed until Democrats control Congress and the White House, and also grow some firmness in their spines.

CHARLES: The United States has become a cross between "House of Cards" and ""Game of Thrones." That's exactly what is outlined here with respect to this report.

REID: And it it is saying it is allowed. And I think you make a very good point. It's saying that in the next election, what Robert Mueller and William Barr have essentially said is, "Any presidential candidate who wishes to seek advantage and assistance from a foreign power in seeking the presidency, and then obstruct the investigation into that assistance, MAY DO IT.

CHARLES: But not just any foreign power, an ADVERSARY. A HOSTILE foreign power. They want to take us DOWN!

MYSTAL: Don't worry, democrats won't do it.

REID: Also that.

CHARLES: Then we'll be called the United States of Russia.

And no one likes the sound of that.

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