03:05 - Source: CNN
Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill
Washington CNN —  

Former White House counsel John Dean, whose testimony in the Watergate investigation helped topple Richard Nixon’s presidency, said Wednesday that Robert Mueller did not “vigorously pursue” subpoenaing President Donald Trump as part of his special counsel’s investigation.

Mueller appeared Wednesday before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees in the two most highly anticipated hearings of the Trump presidency to testify about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The former special counsel and former FBI director defended not subpoenaing the President because of the prolonged process to fight over it – a move Dean, who is a CNN contributor, likened to not pushing for the infamous Nixon tapes.

“This is a man who if it had been Richard Nixon, wouldn’t go after the tapes because it would take too long,” Dean told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “And I think that’s something that’s going to hang over this investigation, hang over Mueller, because he really didn’t vigorously pursue it as he might’ve.”

Mueller said his team tried for more than a year to interview Trump, but asked if anyone tried to stop it, Mueller made clear they could have subpoenaed if they wanted to. 

In his testimony, Mueller stated unequivocally his investigation did not exonerate Trump on the allegations of obstruction of justice, despite Trump’s claims.

Dean also said Mueller “didn’t take it all the way back,” referencing what he called the special counsel’s “walk-back, to draw another Watergate term” from an answer he gave to California Democrat Rep. Ted Lieu.

Mueller at the outset of the second congressional hearing before the House Intelligence Committee clarified one of his most significant exchanges from earlier in the day, saying he did not intend to say that his office did not indict the President because of the guidance from the Office of Legal Counsel. The former special counsel clarified he meant that because of the OLC guidance, there was no decision either way on whether to indict the President.

“I’d like to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu who said and I quote, ‘You didn’t charge the President because of the OLC opinion.’ That is not the correct way to say it,” Mueller said in the second hearing. “As we say in the report and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the President committed a crime.”

CNN’s Adam Levine contributed to this report.