Mueller Walks Back Whether OLC Opinion Prohibited Him from Indicting Trump

Special counsel initially said only reason his office didn't indict Trump was due to OLC regulation

July 24, 2019

At the beginning of his second congressional hearing Wednesday, former special counsel Robert Mueller walked back a previous response he gave earlier in the morning that indicated the reason why his investigative team did not indict President Donald Trump was due to a memorandum from the Department of Justice limiting the ability to indict a sitting president.

During the morning hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Ted Lieu (D., Calif.) questioned Mueller over his team's decision to not indict President Trump.

"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's correct," Mueller responded.

Lieu was asking Mueller about a legal opinion from the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel which prohibits federal prosecutors from indicting a sitting President.

Prominent liberal writers quickly voiced their approval of Lieu's questioning, pointing to the exchange as a blockbuster moment from the morning hearing.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff said the exchange was "the big news," from the hearing while Washington Post writer Greg Sargent tweeted "Whoa!" after the exchange pointing to it as a revelatory moment between Mueller and Lieu.

But as Mueller began his second opening statement for the afternoon hearing in front of the House Intelligence Committee, Mueller explicitly stated his earlier response had been misconstrued and not totally true.

"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 near the end of his opening statement.

"That is not the correct way to say it," he added. "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."