Ted Lieu: Mueller avoided defaming Trump
The Democratic congressman who asked former special counsel Robert Mueller if Justice Department guidance stopped him from indicting President Donald Trump says he thinks Mueller walked back his initial response because it amounted to labeling Trump “a felon in the White House.”
California Rep. Ted Lieu had asked Mueller if the Office of Legal Counsel guidance against indicting a sitting president was the reason he didn’t indict Trump. Mueller said that was “correct” at first. He later clarified, stating, “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.”
Appearing on “Anderson Cooper 360,” Lieu said that he believes Mueller’s initial answer is “what he actually believes.”
“I believe he fully understood my question. It was a logical extension of me getting him to establish the three elements of obstruction of justice were met and I think it’s what he actually believes,” Lieu told Cooper.. “I think he may have walked it back because he understood that what that means is we got a felon in the White House and that’s what the hearing showed today, that Donald Trump committed multiple acts of obstruction of justice.”
“Those are felonies,” he added. “What the American people and Congress choose to do with that information we’ll see in the next few days and weeks.”
Mueller appeared before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees Wednesday to discuss the report he released in April on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Mueller’s initial response to Lieu contradicted what Justice Department officials have said were the answers from the special counsel team during a March 5 meeting that included Mueller and his top lieutenants along with Attorney General William Barr, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and other officials.
Despite Mueller’s testimony straying little from his written report, Lieu posited the televised hearings would move public sentiment against Trump and, as a result, help spawn an impeachment inquiry from Congress.
“If anyone watching these two hearings who had not read the Mueller report or learned about the issues, they would have been surprised today because special counsel Robert Mueller directly contradicts Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr,” he said.
Internal Justice Department policies state that a sitting president cannot be indicted. The policy comes from the Office of Legal Counsel — and it dates back to the Nixon administration.
Mueller says in his report this had a major impact on his internal deliberations.
CNN’s Evan Perez contributed to this report.