White House Said Mueller Report Had ‘Legal Defect’ Day After Release

‘Part ‘truth commission’ report and part law school exam paper…’

Trump Denies Claims He Tried to Fire Mueller 1

Robert Mueller/IMAGE: YouTube

(Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg News) White House lawyer Emmet Flood accused Robert Mueller of failing to follow the regulations creating his post and said the special counsel’s report has an “extraordinary legal defect,” in a letter sent to Attorney General William Barr the day after the document’s public release.

In the newly disclosed letter dated April 19, Flood scoffed at Mueller’s work as “part ‘truth commission’ report and part law school exam paper.” He accused the special counsel of writing it with the intent of providing Congress with a “road map” to take action against the president on obstruction of justice, which Flood called an improper use of Mueller’s position.

President Donald Trump has boasted that Mueller’s report amounted to “total EXONERATION” from the investigations into his campaign’s ties to Russian election interference and whether Trump obstructed justice. But Flood’s letter betrayed a less enthusiastic appraisal than the president’s tweets and the assessments offered by Barr in public summaries and Senate testimony.

Mueller said he couldn’t make a finding on obstruction because Justice Department regulations don’t allow indicting a sitting president. But he laid out more than a dozen instances that he said could have amounted to obstruction. Flood said that wasn’t Mueller’s job and that his office failed to act as a prosecutor, whose job is simply to determine whether to bring charges in the belief that a crime can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Instead, it transmitted a 182-page discussion of raw evidentiary material combined with its own inconclusive observations on the arguable legal significance of the gathered content,” Flood wrote.

While a redacted version of Mueller’s full report was already public at the time of the letter, Flood said he was writing the attorney general to record his concerns so Mueller’s report doesn’t set a precedent for future presidents.

Flood wrote that Trump wants it known that his decision to allow the release of material in Mueller’s report concerning his time in office doesn’t mean he’s waiving his right to assert privilege in the future for other material, the underlying evidence Mueller collected or for his current or former White House aides to appear before congressional committees.

“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump told reporters on April 24. “Look, these aren’t like impartial people,” he said of Democratic lawmakers.

Barr refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, protesting the panel’s planned format for questioning, and the Justice Department has confirmed it has also declined to comply with a subpoena for the un-redacted version of Mueller’s report and the evidence behind it.

In contentious testimony Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr struck themes similar to those advanced by the White House.

The attorney general told senators that none of the actions taken by Trump met the necessary legal requirements to be charged as crimes and proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury, including directing his White House counsel to fire Mueller and trying to get the previous attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to reverse his recusal from overseeing the investigation.

He also portrayed Trump as a victim dogged “by two years of allegations — by allegations that have now been proven false.”

The testimony came hours after the disclosure that Mueller had written Barr in March to complain that a summary of the findings released by the attorney general “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Barr “lied to Congress” in testimony and “that’s a crime.”

(With assistance from Chris Strohm, Steven T. Dennis and Billy House.)

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