In Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ten-minute speech delivered to the American people on television yesterday, he said it would have been “unconstitutional” for him to have charged President Trump with a crime. But does our Constitution say that? Mueller did not reference it. Instead, Mueller gave the impression that he was saying that based on the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel guidelines, of which he mentioned and elaborated. They say a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime. But that DOJ policy has never been challenged in court.
Today, Attorney General William Barr said Robert Mueller did have authority to conclude in his report that President Trump “broke the law,” just that he could not have so charged. More particularly, Barr said Mueller could have stated that Trump “obstructed justice.” There Barr goes again; he seems to pride himself as the master of nuance. Maybe I’m just being too non-legal, but I think most people wouldn’t see a difference here.As I said in a recent post, since Mueller and his team concluded at the outset of their investigation that the OLC policy prohibited them from charging the president with a crime, I wonder if Mueller should have brought that to the attention of at least Congress, which makes the laws. Now we’ve got a dispute about this by the two leading lawmen in this country.
Mueller also stated that it would have been unfair to accuse the president of crimes and not given him opportunity to defend himself. But could not Mueller have so charged him, and then Congress would have provided the president with such an opportunity. But I think Congress is probably going to impeach President Trump anyway. That would involve testimony by many, perhaps including the president.