Mueller Shoots Down GOP Line: Inability To Indict Trump Didn’t Bar Me From Probing Him

UNITED STATES - JULY 24: Former special counsel Robert Mueller arrives in Rayburn Building to testify before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. He will testify before the House Intelligence Committee later in the day. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Group

Former special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday asserted his right to investigate President Trump without being able to charge him, shooting down a line used by Republican lawmakers and Attorney General Bill Barr.

During Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) asked Mueller why there was “all of this investigation of President Trump” when, as per a standing Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion that prevents sitting presidents from being indicted, “you knew that you weren’t going to prosecute him.”

“Well, you don’t know where the investigation is going to lie,” Mueller replied. “And the OLC opinion itself says that you can continue the investigation.”

The line of argument — that since Mueller was prohibited from charging Trump under  Justice Department policy — became a prominent feature of the hearing, and of GOP spin on the Mueller report’s findings.

Before Sensenbrenner, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) let loose at Mueller on the same topic, accusing the former special counsel of going beyond his remit as a prosecutor by probing the President while being unable to indict him.

Before Wednesday’s hearing, Barr made a similar point to GOP lawmakers, saying that Mueller should have steered away from probing Trump’s conduct once he realized that it may have been chargeable and that he was unable to reach a traditional prosecutorial judgment.

“That was the time to pull up,” Barr said,

As Mueller noted, the OLC policy states that presidents can face criminal investigation in order to preserve evidence for impeachment or potential future charges.


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