Robert Mueller told lawmakers that from the beginning of the investigation they were guided by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel’s guidance that a sitting president could not be indicted. He added that prosecutors could indict a president once he is no longer in office.
Mueller told committee chairman Jerry Nadler the OLC opinion was a fact at the very start.
“We, at the outset determined that … when it came to the President’s culpability, we needed to, we needed to go forward only after taking into account the OLC opinion that indicated that a President, sitting President, cannot be indicted,” Mueller testified.
Asked whether a prosecutor could indict a president once he leaves office, Mueller said, “The OLC opinion says that the prosecutor, while he cannot bring a charge against a sitting president, nonetheless he can continue the investigation to see if there are other persons drawn into the conspiracy.”
Rep. Ted Lieu was one of at least two Democrats who sought to get Mueller to agree that Trump had obstructed justice when he ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire the special counsel.
“I'd like to ask you the reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?” Lieu asked.
“That is correct,” Mueller responded.
He then quickly amended his response, “The only thing I want to add is I'm going through the elements with you. That does not mean I subscribe to what you're trying to prove through those elements.”
Guy Reschenthaler, a Republican, later prodded Mueller by suggesting the special counsel office decided not to prosecute Trump.
“In this case, you made a decision not to prosecute, correct?”
Mueller said it wasn’t a decision to not prosecute but reiterated that they were guided by the OLC opinion.
“No, we made a decision not to decide whether to prosecute.”