“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” — Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, calmly, clearly and conclusively NOT EXONERATING President Trump at a Department of Justice  press conference this morning.

With characteristic stoicism and brevity, Mueller bowed out of the center ring of the Trump circus by refusing yet again to say the words the president, his Republican enablers and Cult 45 keep trying to put in his mouth: “My investigation found that President Trump is innocent of any criminal or ethical wrongdoing.”

If that was true, Mueller made it clear he would say so. It’s not true, so he won’t. He also made it clear that in terms of Justice Department rules, Trump is better than innocent — he is the president. Mueller said prohibitions against indicting a sitting president made it impossible for him to bring charges he likely would have filed against any other American given the evidence his investigation uncovered.

That evidence is available in his report, which most Americans are too lazy to read. Mueller said the report stands as his testimony and he would prefer Congress take it at his word and spare him a public appearance on the Hill. Congressional Democrats will likely still press Mueller to testify. If so, he will likely comply. In the meantime, Democrats should continue to deny Trump what he so desperately wants — impeachment hearings.

No one plays the martyr more effectively than Trump. Day by day, drip by drip, Trump is a drowning man being pulled under by a lifetime of lies and the supreme authority of the Constitution. Every time Trump  tries to put himself above the law, he impeaches himself and the Republicans who protect him. As long as current pressures achieve results, impeachment should be a last resort.

While Trump’s time-lapse implosion continues, we should all take Mueller’s advice and read his report. I’m laid up after leg surgery, so I don’t have much excuse to keep putting it off. How about you?