White House lawyers wanted Mueller to either charge Trump with a crime or say nothing at all.
After special counsel Robert Mueller released his roughly 400-page report, Trump loudly exclaimed on Twitter that he had achieved "Complete and Total EXONERATION."
However, an April 19 letter from White House lawyer Emmett Flood to Attorney General William Barr shows that even Trump's own legal team didn't believe that to be the case.
In the letter, obtained Thursday by NBC News, Flood whined to Barr that Mueller's report didn't exonerate the president. Flood went on to say that because Mueller didn't exonerate the president, but also didn't charge him with a crime, that the report never should have been released to the public.
"Prosecutors simply are not in the business of 'exonerating' investigated persons," Flood wrote.
Continued. (2/2) pic.twitter.com/SSniktWP7L
— Charlie Gile (@CharlieGileNBC) May 2, 2019
Flood's argument is that under "general prosecutorial principles ... prosecutors are to speak publicly through indictments or confidentially in declination memoranda."
In layman's terms, Trump's lawyers wanted Mueller to either charge Trump or say nothing at all.
If that sounds familiar, it's because it is.
After the FBI wrapped up its investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, now former FBI Director James Comey held a news conference in which he said Clinton was not being charged with a crime, but at the same time made a number of statements that Republicans used to attack Clinton throughout the campaign.
Trump loved to tout Comey's comments on the campaign trail, making claims that Clinton "compromised our national security" and that the decision not to charge her was "rigged."
Now, however, the shoe is on the other foot, and Trump's legal team is upset that Mueller released mounds of evidence showing Trump sought to obstruct justice on numerous occasions — including by trying to have administration officials fire Mueller.
The only reason Trump isn't being charged is that Mueller felt bound by Department of Justice policy that a sitting president can't be indicted. Instead, he used his report to lay out the case for why it was not his decision to charge Trump, and that it is rather up to Congress to choose to impeach and remove a sitting president.
However after the report was released, Barr decided to unilaterally make his own determination that Trump didn't obstruct justice and to say that Trump wouldn't be charged with a crime.
Ultimately, the takeaway is that despite what Trump has proclaimed, Trump wasn't exonerated by the Mueller report. And that point is now backed up by his own White House lawyers.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.