President Donald Trump returned to attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a new Fox News interview this week, apparently no longer convinced that he’s been “exonerated” by the conclusion of the Russia investigation.
Trump had previously claimed Mueller “acted honorably,” but it seems he changed his mind.
“Let me tell you, he made such a fool out of himself,” the president told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “Because what people don’t report is the letter he had to do to straighten out his testimony because his testimony was wrong.”
As Fox News made clear, the president was referring to Mueller’s statement to the press, in which the special counsel said that he had never considered charging Trump with a crime because of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting president. But Trump’s claim that he has to “straighten out” his testimony makes no sense and flies in the face of the facts.
Many criticized Attorney General Bill Barr after Mueller’s remarks, because Barr had said the special counsel “was not saying that but for the OLC opinion, he would have found obstruction.” This, many believed, contradicted Mueller’s statement about the OLC memo. When Trump claimed Mueller had to “straighten out” his comments, he referred to a subsequent statement from the Justice Department saying that Mueller and Barr’s statements didn’t contradict. So in fact, the statement Trump points to in saying that Mueller “made such a fool out of himself” indicates nothing of the sort.
It was Barr who was the source of the confusion, not Mueller, as Trump claimed. We know this because what Mueller said publicly matches what he said in his report, which is what Barr based his initial comments on.
Barr’s claims were true, but only because of a technicality. Mueller has determined that it would not be fair to accuse Trump of a crime without being able to indict him. That means that Mueller will not explicitly say that, were it not for the Justice Department’s policy, he would have found Trump guilty of a crime — as Barr claimed. But even though Mueller won’t say that, it is almost certainly true that Trump would have been incited without the protection of his office. And based on the report, and it’s absolutely clear that Mueller’s decision to avoid making a determination was based on the Justice Department’s policy about not indicting presidents, even though Barr’s comments were widely interpreted to suggest otherwise.
Barr clearly meant to obscure that facts with his technically-true-but-misleading comments before the release of the Mueller report. One person Barr appears to have successfully misled is Trump, along with much of conservative media, who was then caught off guard when Mueller spoke publicly and reiterated what was written in his report.
If Trump and his defenders had bothered to read the actual report, they wouldn’t have been blindsided by the Mueller’s comments. Mueller isn’t the one who should be embarrassed by these events.