The extent to which federal obstruction of justice statutes apply to the president, especially when concerning actions facially within the office’s powers under Article II, has been hotly contested at least since President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.
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The release of the redacted Mueller report focused the spotlight squarely on former White House Counsel Don McGahn, whose testimony to the special counsel featured prominently in the report’s discussion of obstruction of justice. Indeed, the first questions to Attorney General William Barr from Sen.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has concluded his investigation, and many questions remain. Chief among them is what animated Mueller’s decision not to reach a conclusion on possible obstruction of justice by the president. Why did he choose to follow Department of Justice policy prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president? Would he have indicted the president without that policy? Why did he seemingly leave it to Congress—and, perhaps inadvertently, to Attorney General William Barr—to make a final judgment on the president’s conduct?
On April 23, Benjamin Wittes hosted a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution unpacking what we learned from the redacted version of the Mueller report. The panel featured Susan Hennessey, Chuck Rosenberg and Margaret Taylor. They discussed the factual record Mueller established on Russian interference and collusion, whether the president's conduct constitutes obstruction of justice and how Congress and the American people might react to the report.
Reading the report carefully and writing my thoughts as I go.
Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, and he did not conclude that President Trump had obstructed justice. But he did not exonerate the president either.
The coming week may bring not just one but three reports on the Mueller investigation. Of principal interest, of course, is the original document by Robert Mueller. Then there is the redacted version of the report that Attorney General William Barr will release.
The wait is almost over. The Mueller report is set for release on Thursday morning. It’s already a number-one bestseller on Amazon. Congressional staffers are stockpiling booze and drafting take-out orders, anticipating a long night of reading.
On Thursday, Justice Department Spokesperson Kerri Kupec released a statement, included in full below, regarding Attorney General Bill Barr's letter concerning the Mueller report.
I was pleased to host this discussion at the Brookings Institution yesterday with Susan Hennessey, Margaret Taylor, both of Brookings, and former National Security Division chief Mary McCord, now at Georgetown law. It's a very good discussion of where we are with the Mueller Report and the congressional politics surrounding it.