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GOP lawmaker tears into Mueller, alleging his report violates DOJ principles

Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeStrange bedfellows: UFOs are uniting Trump's fiercest critics, loyalists Trump alumni launch America First Policy Institute Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge MORE (R-Texas) tore into Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE at Wednesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, claiming the former special counsel violated Justice Department principles by writing that his investigation did not exonerate President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP-led Maricopa County board decries election recount a 'sham' Analysis: Arpaio immigration patrol lawsuit to cost Arizona county at least 2 million Conservatives launch 'anti-cancel culture' advocacy organization MORE.  

Ratcliffe, a former prosecutor who has seen his name floated for attorney general and other positions in the Trump administration, was moved up by Republicans so that he was the second GOP lawmaker to ask questions to Mueller.

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“Which DOJ policy or principal sets forth a legal standard that an investigated person is not exonerated if their innocence from criminal conduct is not conclusively determined?” Ratcliffe asked Mueller, referring back to Mueller’s opening remarks in which he said the special counsel’s office was guided by Justice Department policies in its investigation.

When Mueller didn’t offer a clear answer, Ratcliffe pressed him to give an example of an instance of this other than the investigation of potential obstruction of justice by Trump.

“I cannot, but this is a unique situation,” Mueller said before Ratcliffe cut him off.

“You can’t find it because — I’ll tell you why — it doesn’t exist,” Ratcliffe said.

“Respectfully, director, it was not the special counsel’s job to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or to exonerate him because the bedrock principal of our justice system is presumption of innocence. It exists for everyone,” Ratcliffe said, raising his voice. “Everyone is entitled to it — even sitting presidents.”

Ratcliffe went on to continue to criticize Volume II of Mueller’s report, noting that the special counsel’s regulation required him to issue a confidential report to the attorney general that lays out prosecution or declination decisions.

Ratcliffe charged that Mueller “managed to violate” Justice Department principles by explaining in his report that he failed to reach a conclusion on obstruction.

Mueller wrote in his report and reaffirmed in his May 29 press conference that he did not answer the question of whether Trump engaged in criminal wrongdoing because of the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Instead, Mueller’s report lays out evidence he found regarding 10 episodes of potential obstruction by Trump.

Lawmakers are being held to tight timelines for their questions, and Mueller did not get a chance to respond to Ratcliffe's closing statements. 

"If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment," Mueller's report states.

"The evidence we obtained about the President's actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."