(Bloomberg) -- Former White House lawyer Ty Cobb says Robert Mueller did a “thorough and professional job” in his investigation into Russian election interference and Donald Trump’s conduct as president, though he disagrees with Mueller’s decision not to clear Trump of obstruction of justice.
Cobb, who oversaw the White House response to the investigation for almost a year, said Mueller and his team took an overly broad view of obstruction.
“They came to the right conclusion in affirmatively exonerating the president of the underlying crime of collusion and electing not to find misconduct in connection with obstruction,” said Cobb. “I can understand from the report why he did what he did, I think they were hamstrung by an exotic view of obstruction.”
Mueller’s 448-page report detailed an exhaustive account of Trump’s efforts to stymie the Russia probe in at least 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice. Mueller stopped short of saying Trump should be charged with a crime related to the actions even as he all but invited Congress to take action.
“The president’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” Mueller wrote.
Cobb has argued that Trump acted within his constitutional rights by firing FBI Director James Comey, one of the main events that triggered the obstruction investigation. He said many of the actions that Mueller used as evidence of obstruction were driven by Trump’s frustration over the investigation, rather than an attempt to end the investigation.
“He was being investigated for collusion with the knowledge he had never done it and the belief it was totally politically motivated,” Cobb said. “Does defending himself and doing so by tweet amount to obstruction?”
Cobb said it was interesting that Trump didn’t assert executive privilege on any of the internal White House deliberations, which Cobb believes would have been upheld if challenged in court. He helped devise the legal strategy of cooperating early in the investigation, offering interviews with key officials and turning over thousands of pages of documents. The goal was to speed the inquiry -- and also provide legal cover for Trump to refuse to be interviewed by Mueller on the grounds that wasn’t necessary.
Cobb, who reviewed every document the White House turned over, said he wasn’t surprised by any of Mueller’s findings.
“It’s not news to those who had been following this really closely or had lived through it,” Cobb said.
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