In his congressional testimony Wednesday, former special counsel Robert Mueller again walked up to the line of saying President Trump committed obstruction of justice — but didn’t quite cross it.
Mueller reiterated the assertion in his report that he was constrained from bringing charges against Trump because of a 2000 memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which states that “the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting president would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”
Mueller’s report, which was released in April, detailed 10 incidents of possible obstruction of justice by Trump.
Under questioning from Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., Mueller agreed that Trump’s conduct appeared to meet the three requirements for a charge of obstruction: an ongoing federal judicial proceeding, knowledge of that proceeding, and a corrupt attempt to interfere with the proceeding. But he stopped short of saying that the president actually committed a felony.
“The reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC opinion that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?” Lieu asked Mueller.
“That is correct,” Mueller replied.
Later, during his appearance before the House Intelligence Committee, Mueller clarified his response to Lieu, saying that his office did "not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime."
Mueller was also asked by Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., whether “lies by Trump campaign officials and administration officials impeded” his investigation.
“I would generally agree with that,” Mueller replied.
Earlier in his testimony, Mueller said that while the longstanding policy prevents the Justice Department from charging the president with a crime, Trump could be indicted after he leaves the White House.
“Could you charge the president with a crime after he left office?” Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., asked Mueller.
“Yes,” Mueller replied.
“You believe that he committed — you believe that you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?” Buck asked.
Mueller answered, “Yes,” but the exchange did not clarify whether he was just acknowledging that the impediment to indicting Trump would be removed after he left office, or claiming that the evidence was sufficient to sustain a charge.