Robert Mueller’s report makes the stirring claim that “a fundamental principle of our government” is that no person, not even the president, “is above the law.”
But the special counsel’s ultimate legacy may well be the exact opposite — because of his controversial decision not to say whether Trump committed criminal obstruction of justice.
“We concluded that we would not reach a determination, one way or the other, about whether the president committed a crime,” Mueller said in his statement Wednesday, reiterating his report’s explanation.
It was the punt heard around the world. It may have been the crucial turning point in the saga of the special counsel probe, and perhaps the decision most likely to have ramifications for future presidents. It effectively “removes the president from the scope of generally applicable criminal laws,” Cornell law professor Jens David Ohlin recently told my colleague Sean Illing.
Essentially, Mueller has laid out a model that federal prosecutors can investigate the sitting president for crimes, but that they should not make any conclusion about whether he committed a crime. In a sense, this does seem to place the president above the law. [Continue reading…]