Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that he thought Special Counsel Robert Mueller “could’ve reached a decision” on whether President Trump committed obstruction of justice during his investigation, reflecting the Justice Department’s frustration that Mueller left the question open in his final report.
“I personally felt he could’ve reached a decision,” Barr told CBS. “He could’ve reached a conclusion.”
Mueller made his first public statement on the almost two-year investigation on Wednesday, saying that charging Trump with a crime was “not an option” since, per guidance issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, a sitting president cannot be indicted.
In March, Mueller submitted his final report to Barr on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. A redacted version of the report was released to Congress and the public in April. The report concluded that the Trump campaign did not conspire with Russians to influence the election, but said investigators could not reach a conclusion on obstruction.
“The opinion says you cannot indict a president while he is in office, but he could have reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity,” the attorney general said. “But he had his reasons for not doing it, which he explained, and I’m not going to, you know, argue about those reasons.”
Barr said that when Mueller did not make a decision on the matter, he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “felt it was necessary for us as the heads of the department to reach that decision.” They concluded Trump had not committed obstruction.
Pressed on whether Mueller intended to leave the obstruction question up to Congress, Barr argued that the “Department of Justice doesn’t use our powers of investigating crimes as an adjunct to Congress.”
“I’m not sure what he was suggesting,” Barr added.