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Photo illustration by Lesley Becker/Globe Staff; Adobe; Globe file photos/Globe Staff; Adobe; Globe file photos

“We’re in the endgame now.”

When he finally spoke, that was the message from Dr. Strange, a.k.a. Robert Mueller.

After a two-year investigation, Mueller had this to say to the country: His report speaks for itself, and now he’s back to private life.

On one hand, his exit is maddening. Yet, like the protagonist in the “Avengers’’ movies, Mueller did line up all the pieces necessary for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats to take down Thanos in the White House. They just have to decide how to use them.

Should they issue more subpoenas, including one to Mueller? Democrats can and should investigate away. But saying he does not “believe it is appropriate,” Mueller made it quite clear he’ll have nothing to say beyond the words written in his 400-page report.


Should they begin impeachment proceedings? That remains the biggest choice and gamble for House Democrats. It’s all up to them. There’s no more help coming from Mueller, no further reveal to count on. Announcing that he’s resigning and shutting down the office of the special counsel, Mueller basically reiterated the highlights of his report: Russia attacked our political system and worked to influence the 2016 election. That’s fact, not fake news. But Mueller could not establish collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

As for Trump and obstruction of justice, “if we had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” said Mueller. Because of longstanding Justice Department rules, no determination was made as to whether a crime was committed. “It would be unconstitutional,” Mueller said. “The Constitution,” explained Mueller, “requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

As US Representative Justin Amash, Republican from Michigan, tweeted after Mueller spoke, “The ball is in our court, Congress.” Amash has been making headlines as the lone Republican calling for impeachment proceedings against Trump. His voice adds pressure to Democrats already torn over the political implications for the 2020 presidential election.


Trump has already shown how he will handle demands from House Democrats for more information — by stonewalling them. It’s more evidence of the complete disruption he has rendered since taking office. You think there are rules? He doesn’t. He will fight to the death in court to keep every document and tax return not just from the Democrats, but from his fellow Americans.

The safest route for Democrats is to keep up their demands for information from Trump. Mueller’s findings exposed a morally corrupt president. Democrats can breathe further life into the special counsel’s report by forcing the people named in it to testify in public before the American people. And that includes Mueller, even if he only repeats these words: “As stated in my report.” For as Amash also said, “The American public has the right to hear directly from him. His investigation cost the American taxpayers more than $25 million. They don’t want a filtered version of his testimony spun by members of Congress with partisan agendas.”

Trump is counting on Mueller to stick to his prosecutorial instincts and say nothing beyond what he said in his prepared statement. He’s also counting on Democrats to stay too scared of the political consequences to go down the impeachment path. Meanwhile, Trump and Attorney General William Barr are threatening to investigate the investigators. Trump also issued another threat: No infrastructure as long as there are investigations. This president will freeze the legislative money pump and blame it on Democrats, all to save himself.


What to do if you are Pelosi? It’s a huge decision. One that really does require courage.

In “Avengers: Endgame,’’ killing Thanos didn’t solve everything. He had already done too much to damage the universe. Impeaching Trump won’t solve all the country’s problems either. But increasingly, it looks like the only way to win back something else: our dignity as a country, and our embrace of some principle bigger than self-preservation.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.