Attorney General William Barr said that during a March meeting with special counsel Robert Mueller, Mueller "reiterated several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that but for the OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion he would have found obstruction."
This was the latest in a series of statements from Barr in which he downplayed the role of the Justice Department guidelines against indicting a president. Barr made the same claim at his press conference before releasing the Mueller report in April.
Why this matters: Internal Justice Department policies say that a sitting president cannot be indicted. The policy comes from the OLC and it dates back to the Nixon administration. It is binding on all Justice Department employees, including Mueller and his team of prosecutors.
But despite Barr’s comments, Mueller's report directly explains how this had a major impact on his internal deliberations. In effect, Mueller framed his entire obstruction investigation around the notion that he couldn't bring any charges against Trump even if he found ironclad evidence against him, because of the OLC opinion.
"Given the role of the special counsel as an attorney in the Department of Justice and the framework of the special counsel regulations... this office accepted OLC's legal conclusion for the purpose of exercising prosecutorial jurisdiction," Mueller wrote in the report.
That appeared on the very first page of the volume that addressed obstruction of justice. This framework is a far cry from Barr's public pronouncements that the OLC opinion had no bearing on obstruction endgame.