A key moment from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony Wednesday morning before the House Judiciary Committee was celebrated by some Democrats as proof that President Donald Trump obstructed justice and should thus be impeached.
Shockingly (or maybe not so much), this moment blew up in their faces when Mueller issued a correction later on.
Mueller, who was testifying about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, was asked by Rep. Ted Lieu, a pro-impeachment Democrat from California, about his decision not to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.
Lieu referred to a decades-old internal Justice Department guideline that protects a sitting president from being indicted by the federal government.
The policy comes from a 1973 memorandum from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, written while then-President Richard Nixon was mired in the Watergate scandal.
“A President may not be able fully to discharge the powers and duties of his office if he had to defend a criminal prosecution,” the document reads.
In 2000, after then-President Bill Clinton was impeached, the DOJ noted that “the conclusion reached by the Department in 1973 still represents the best interpretation of the Constitution.”
The Democrats’ reasoning goes something like this: Mueller decided not to charge Trump with obstruction of justice only because he was bound by the DOJ guideline, despite having found evidence that Trump committed a crime.
And Democrats sure thought they were right after the answer Mueller gave Lieu.
“The reason again that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of the OLC opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?” Lieu asked.
“That is correct,” Mueller responded.
Rep. Lieu: “The reason again that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of the OLC opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting President, correct?”
— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) July 24, 2019
As CNN noted: “His original answer was seen as Mueller saying the only reason the President was not indicted was because, as president, he cannot be indicated.”
Lieu himself seemed to believe this was so, retweeting a video of Mueller’s response.
“What we established today in the hearing is that we have a felon sitting in the White House. Donald Trump committed multiple crimes of obstruction of justice,” the California Democrat told reporters after the hearing, according to Reuters.
Mueller, though, would soon correct himself.
“I want to add one correction to my testimony this morning,” he said during the opening statement of his second hearing of the day, this one before the House Intelligence Committee.
“I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu who said, and I quote, ‘You didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion.’ That is not the correct way to say it.
“As we say in the report, and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”
Mueller adding a correction to his testimony this morning…
“I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu who said, and I quote, ‘you didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion.’ That is not the correct way to say it.” pic.twitter.com/H0iUJ03nyi
— Andrew Clark (@AndrewHClark) July 24, 2019
Now, Mueller had been vague — perhaps intentionally so — throughout his testimony. This correction was vague as well.
But what it does do is destroy the liberal narrative that Mueller opted not to charge Trump with obstruction solely because of the DOJ guideline.
Trump didn’t obstruct justice, plain and simple.
Lieu thought he finally had proof that Trump did commit a crime. The California Democrat couldn’t have been more wrong.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.