What Attorney General William Barr said Thursday morning at a press conference on the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s report and what he said in his March 24 summary contradicts what’s actually in the full report. According to Barr, Mueller told him that the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion not to indict a sitting President wasn’t a factor. According to Mueller’s report, however, that does not appear to be true.
In the 400-plus-page document released this morning, Mueller acknowledged the OLC opinion. “We recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the Presidents capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct,” the report states.
Mueller explained further in the following statement: “The office of the Legal Counsel has issued an opinion finding that ‘the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions’ in violation of ‘the constitutional separation of powers.’”
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway‘s attorney husband George Conway and others pointed out on Twitter his morning that Barr got this key fact wrong.
“Barr’s March 24 letter said that ‘[o]ur’—his and Rosenstein’s—determination on obstruction ‘was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president,'” Conway said. “He conveniently left out the fact that the Special Counsel’s [sic] decided not to make a ‘traditional prosecutorial judgment’ on obstruction precisely because the longstanding DOJ view that a siting president cannot be indicted.”
left out the fact that the Special Counsel’s decided not to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on obstruction precisely because the longstanding DOJ view that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) April 18, 2019
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman chimed in as well.
A really striking contradiction in Mueller report from what Barr said this morning – Barr said Mueller told him that the OLC opinion on not indicting a sitting president wasn't a factor. The report includes it as a factor.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 18, 2019
While Barr’s statements regarding Mueller’s conclusions may have been accurate, his characterization of why he made his decisions may not have been.
[Image via MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty/Images]