Looking at the reactions from the left and right to Robert Mueller’s shocking Wednesday press conference, you would think liberals and conservatives watched two separate statements.
One particular aspect of Mueller’s statement that is being honed in on by both sides of the political aisle is Mueller’s claim that he did not go forward with prosecuting President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice only because the law states a sitting president must be prosecuted through Congress.
“If we had had confidence the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so,” said Mueller. He added that “the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”
Mueller’s statement has come into question because Attorney General William Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee during his recent testimony that Mueller specifically told him that it was not his position that the only thing keeping him from prosecuting the president were the guidelines of the OLC [Office of Legal Counsel].
Source: Fox News
“Special counsel Mueller stated three times to us in that meeting in response to our questioning that he emphatically was not saying that but for the OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion, he would have found obstruction,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee. In this statement, Barr is referring to the fact that a sitting president cannot legally be indicted.
Mueller’s new statement directly contradicts what Barr said. However, there is still a question about Mueller’s credibility here, as actions speak louder than words.
Consider this: the Mueller report made no concrete accusation of obstruction of justice against the president. If the one thing keeping Mueller from prosecuting Trump was a legal guideline, then he would have more concretely recommended charges for Congress to level against the president following the report. He did not do that.
Compare what Barr said and what Mueller said:
BARR: "[Mueller] made it very clear that was not his position. He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found a crime."
MUELLER: "If we had confidence POTUS clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so." pic.twitter.com/g3mTRjdnFa
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 29, 2019
To top that off, Mueller also basically contradicts himself in his own testimony. He says he cannot prove that Trump “did not commit a crime.” He then says Trump is not entirely innocent simply because his office cannot charge him like a normal individual. This means his standard for someone being charged with a crime is alarmingly low.
Still, Trump critics have translated Mueller’s confusing statement into concrete proof that Congress must act to impeach Trump.
“Given that Special Counsel Mueller was unable to pursue criminal charges against the president, it falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump—and we will do so,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said in a public statement. “No one, not even the President of the United States, is above the law.”
Republican Justin Amash tweeted that the responsibility to prosecute the president now falls on Congress.
“The ball is in our court, Congress,” he tweeted.
Conservatives have meanwhile been criticizing Mueller for giving almost no solid leaning one way or the other on prosecuting the president. This is a man who spent over two years and tens of millions of dollars on an investigation that essentially went nowhere. For him to say he has found no evidence of a crime, but he believes the president should be charged is a man playing politics, which federal prosecutors should never do.
“‘If we had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, we would have said so.’ That is not the standard of a prosecutor. Prosecutors exist to determine whether someone committed a chargeable offense, not whether they are exonerated of charges,” tweeted conservative commentator Ben Shapiro in reaction to Mueller’s statement.
He continued, “Barr said that Mueller told him ‘several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found obstruction.’ This isn’t quite opposed to Mueller’s statement today — Mueller says he didn’t have to find on obstruction thanks to OLC.”
He then added that because Mueller could be playing politics here, it’s possible that both Barr and Mueller are telling the truth.
“This means that the OLC opinion was used as a threshold that allowed Mueller not to make a determination on obstruction; it’s possible that both Mueller and Barr are telling the truth, in other words. If Mueller wanted to say Trump would be indicted but for OLC, he could have,” he tweeted.
Check out other reactions below:
If he had the evidence, Mueller could have identified criminal conduct & *recommended* charges, then let DOJ decide whether OLC guidance would or would not permit those charges being filed against a sitting POTUS. Instead, he decided not to recommend anything.
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) May 29, 2019
Multiple people at DOJ say Mueller stated that OLC opinion had nothing to do with his decision not to charge obstruction, and report itself doesn’t make determination on obstruction, as it did on collusion. Remarks today curiously at odds with both.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) May 29, 2019
I demand a $35 million refund from Mueller and his staff. Their job was to add clarity. He did exactly the opposite.
— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) May 29, 2019
— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) May 29, 2019
No matter where one falls on Mueller and his investigation, the man has lost all credibility at this point. Simply looking at the polar opposite reactions from the left and the right show Mueller has done nothing through his report and his words except cause further confusion and divisiveness. A prosecutor’s job is to investigate and make a determination based on facts. Mueller seems to refuse to do this time and time again and it only feeds a political system that is already dangerously split.
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