Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller told Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) on Wednesday that President Donald Trump could still be indicted for obstruction of justice or other crimes after he leaves office. Asked about this warning, Trump falsely claimed that Mueller had later corrected himself on that point, and attacked the reporter who asked the question for being a liar.
Mueller’s initial comment came during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning.
“Could you charge the president with a crime after he left office?” the Colorado Republican asked. Mueller appeared to surprise Buck with an affirmative response.
“You believe that he committed — you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?” Buck asked again.
“Yes,” the former FBI director said.
Despite this, Trump gleefully attempted to spin the hearings as an exoneration on Wednesday afternoon. Asked by reporters from the Washington Post and CBS News about Mueller’s comments, Trump accused the women of being “fake news” and deliberately asking a dishonest question.
“When you saw Robert Mueller’s statement, the earlier statement and then he did a recap, he did a correction later on in the afternoon,” Trump claimed. “And you know what that correction was and you still asked the question, you know why? Because you’re fake news and you’re one of the worst.”
“And let me just tell you,” he continued. “The fact that you even asked that question, you’re fake news because you know what, he totally corrected himself in the afternoon and you know that just as well as anybody,” Trump stammered.
At the White House, President Trump mocked Robert Mueller’s testimony and called it a “disaster.” But the president quickly turned defensive when @PaulaReidCBS mentioned one of Mueller’s few definitive statements: that Trump could be charged with a crime once he leaves office. pic.twitter.com/pYiStCc3Pi
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) July 25, 2019
The president was incorrectly referencing Mueller’s remarks from his second hearing of the day, before the House Intelligence Committee. Clarifying earlier comments he’d made about how Trump would’ve been indicted were he not president of the United States, Mueller stated, “That is not the correct way to say it. As we say in the report, and I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination on whether the President committed a crime.”
When the CBS News reporter noted that Mueller had not corrected his remarks on whether Trump could be charged with a crime after leaving office, but something else, the president lashed out. “Again, you’re fake news and you’re right at the top of the list also. Read his correction!”
Mueller’s final report, made public in April following a nearly two-year long investigation, outlines at least 10 instances of possible obstruction by the president, as well as the Trump campaign’s numerous ties to Russia. Though Mueller ultimately chose not to indict Trump over those 10 instances, citing existing Justice Department policy that bars a sitting president from being charged with a crime, he noted in his report, and again during Wednesday’s hearing, that his conclusions also did not exonerate the president of wrongdoing.
The special counsel also passed the baton to Congress to take the next step in addressing those possible instances of obstruction, stating, “With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.”