A fairly fundamental rift has opened in the Department of Justice — namely, over Robert Mueller’s decision not to determine one way or another whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT MUELLER, SAYING: “A president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he was in office.
[FLASH] Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.
[FLASH] If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” But Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee who oversaw the final stages of the Russia investigation, gave a starkly different opinion than Mueller’s - saying the special counsel could have made a judgment call even if he could not indict the president.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR, SAYING: “He could have reached a conclusion.
The opinion says you cannot indict a president while he is in office, but he could have reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity.” Mueller’s press conference Wednesday had a galvanizing effect in Washington, spurring Democrats to increase their calls for impeachment and accountability, and infuriating president trump who had falsely claimed that Mueller’s report exonerated him.
Soon after Mueller handed in his report, Barr gave his own summary of the probe, which has been criticized as misinterpreting Mueller’s findings to gloss over the more damning accusations against Trump.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR, SAYING: “The evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.” Mueller documented numerous occasions in which Trump sought to quash the probe into Russian interference.
He also also found multiple contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia but he did not establish evidence of a criminal conspiracy.
Democrats accuse Barr of acting as the president’s lawyer, not the country’s.
A charge Barr disputes.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR, SAYING: “I’m going to make the decisions based on the law and the facts, and I realize that’s in tension with the political climate we live in.” Robert Mueller may have resigned as special counsel, but one thing’s for certain — this case and its rippling manifestations are anything but closed.