Donald Trump may not be out of the woods when it comes to facing obstruction of justice charges, according to testimony by former special counsel Robert Mueller to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, according to a CNN account. Under questioning from Colorado Republican Ken Buck, Mueller confirmed with a simple “yes” answer that, in Buck’s words, “you could charge the President of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?”
Mueller’s confirmation to Buck repeated what he’d earlier said in the testimony to committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, saying that while a Justice Department legal counsel’s opinion was that no president could be indicted while in office, that prohibition would be lifted once the president was no longer serving his term.
However, as ABC News reporter Mike Levine noted via his Twitter account, Mueller was careful to avoid saying whether or not he believed that Trump “should” be indicted.
Nonetheless, under questioning from California Democrat Ted Lieu, Mueller appeared to say that he would have issued an indictment of Trump for obstruction, if not for the Justice Department legal counsel’s opinion, as reported by CNN reporter Josh Campbell via Twitter.
Lieu asked Mueller the following.
“The reason again that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of the OLC opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting President, correct?”
“That is correct,” Mueller answered.
In another exchange quoted by the news site Now This via its Twitter account, Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner asked Mueller why he bothered to investigate Trump at all, if he knew that under Justice Department policy Trump could not be indicted.
Mueller answered that the legal counsel’s opinion “itself says you can continue an investigation itself even if you are not going to indict the president.”
Mueller also acknowledged that Trump may have been subject to blackmail by the Russians, if they knew he had told public lies, and the public was not yet aware they were lies. Mueller said that “I don’t necessarily disagree” that Trump could have been blackmailed, according to reporter Marcy Wheeler, quoting the exchange on her Twitter feed.
The former special counsel also refused to comment when Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson asked whether he would recommend the impeachment of Trump, according to the CNN report. Johnson stated that Mueller’s report — which is readable online via The New York Times — “does not conclude that impeachment would be appropriate here.”
“I’m not going to talk about that issue,” Mueller responded.