Rachel Maddow said on Thursday that attorney general William Barr may have unintentionally given Robert Mueller a new opening to accuse the president of criminal conduct in potential testimony before Congress.
Mueller said this week that he was prohibited from pursuing charges against the president, but the MSNBC host said that new comments from Barr indicate that the Trump Justice Department believes the special counsel could have, in fact, determined whether Trump committed a crime.
“Why can’t Mueller tell Congress, tell us what he thinks about potential criminal behavior by the president if the head of the Justice Department now says that’s what Justice Department policy requires?” Maddow asked.
— PoliticusUSA (@politicususa) May 31, 2019
Mueller says, “I’m part of the Justice Department. I have to follow Justice Department policy. Justice Department policy says I can’t indict and I can’t determine if the president committed crimes.” William Barr, head of the Justice Department is saying, “That’s not Justice Department policy. No, no, no. You have misunderstood that. I’m the head of the Justice Department. Justice Department policy is that you are supposed to say if you think the president committed crimes.” So here’s Barr saying it is Justice Department policy that Mueller should determine if the president committed crimes. And if Barr is now saying that as the head of the Justice Department, as the attorney general, well then why can’t Robert Mueller and his team make that determination now? If they are supposed to follow Justice Department policy and the head of the department says here is the way to follow policy by saying whether or not the president committed a crime, why can’t Mueller tell Congress, tell us what he thinks about potential criminal behavior by the president if the head of the Justice Department now says that’s what Justice Department policy requires?
Mueller should follow Barr’s new policy
To be clear, it’s unlikely that Mueller will go into any more detail than he did this week when he finally broke his silence and delivered his first public statement on his two-year investigation. It’s also uncertain whether Mueller is even willing to testify before Congress.
But if Mueller is so committed to following Justice Department guidelines, he should recognize that attorney general William Barr appears to be changing those guidelines in real time to fit whatever narrative Trump is pushing.
And the latest so-called policy from the DOJ, as Maddow pointed out on Thursday, is that it would have been completely appropriate for Mueller to accuse the president of a crime.
If Mueller does testify before Congress, he should follow Barr’s new policy and tell lawmakers and the American people which crimes he believes Trump may have committed.