Rep. Ted Lieu (D., Calif.) suggested Wednesday former special counsel Robert Mueller reached a conclusion regarding whether President Donald Trump committed a crime, but refrained from issuing an indictment only because of a memorandum from the Department of Justice.
During Mueller's testimony, Lieu asked if the reason the former special counsel did not indict Trump was because of an Office of Legal Counsel opinion prohibiting charging a sitting president.
"That's correct," Mueller responded.
Mueller later walked back his response.
"I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu who said, and I quote, ‘you didn't charge the President because of the OLC opinion,'" Mueller said. "That is not the correct way to say it. As we say in the report, and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime."
Lieu addressed his question and Mueller's walk-back during an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.
"Were you surprised by his first answer this morning and then by his walk-back later in the day?" Cooper asked.
"I was not surprised by his first answer because it's special counsel Mueller himself who always brings up the OLC opinion saying that he was instructed he could not indict a sitting president, and I simply walked the special counsel through the three elements of obstruction of justice. I showed that they were all met and then I asked him basically is the reason he didn't indict Donald Trump because of that opinion and he said yes. It was perfectly logical and made perfect sense," Lieu said.
"Do you think he didn't understand what you said or do you think he actually did understand it and his original answer was what he really thought but he just didn't want to say that publicly?" Cooper pressed.
"I believe he fully understood my question," Lieu replied. "It was a logical extension of me getting him to establish the three elements of obstruction of justice were met, and I think it's what he actually believes. I think he may have walked it back because he understood that what that means is we got a felon in the White House and that's what the hearing showed today, that Donald Trump committed multiple acts of obstruction of justice."
"So when he later says that, you know, they reached no conclusion and they reached no conclusion because of the OLC guidelines they were operating under from the beginning, you think in his mind he did reach a conclusion and he did reveal that?" Cooper asked.
"Absolutely, because he actually lays out the three elements of obstruction of justice," Lieu responded.
Despite Mueller's reversal, left-wing viral news site NowThis also pushed the former special counsel's initial response to Lieu's question, tweeting out the following late Wednesday:
Rep. Ted Lieu: ‘The reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because…you can not indict a sitting president, correct?’
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) July 24, 2019