(National Sentinel) Collusion Confusion: A former top Department of Justice official appointed by President Obama has said that it’s a near certainty that special counsel Robert Mueller isn’t going to indict President Donald J. Trump.
As reported by The Daily Caller, former senior counsel to the deputy attorney general, Eric Columbus, took to Twitter to explain that Americans should not expect Mueller to file any criminal charges against the president, in contrast to a rising chorus of Democrats who say the special counsel is pursuing an obstruction of justice case.
“Mueller almost certainly won’t indict Trump – not because it would be unconstitutional, but because Mueller’s authority is very different from Ken Starr’s was,” he said, referencing former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who was appointed to investigate alleged criminal activities committed by then-President Bill Clinton.
“DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel — in essence, the lawyers’ lawyers — has opined that it’s unconstitutional to indict a sitting president. OLC reached this conclusion twice — in 1973 and in 2000,” he explained in a subsequent tweet.
Last year, however, The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage discovered a memo claiming that Starr solicited a legal opinion on the matter from Ronald Rotunda, a highly regarded law professor, who reached the opposition conclusion.
Starr never did indict Clinton for lying to Congress and obstruction of justice, but he concluded that he “could” do so, the Times reported in a separate story in 1999.
Columbus then tweeted, “Why did Starr feel he could ignore OLC’s 1973 opinion? Because the law under which he was appointed allowed him to do just about anything. His title was ‘independent counsel, and for all intents and purposes he was the Department of Justice with regard to Clinton.”
However, the independent counsel law expired in 1999 — “existing independent counsels were grandfathered in,” Columbus explained — over concerns that they were too independent.
As such, that law was replaced with regulations allowing for the appointment of a “special counsel,” which is Mueller’s title.
Columbus then said that, essentially, Mueller is a “U.S. attorney, except that his jurisdiction is defined by topic rather than geography.” Also, Mueller “reports to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is the acting Attorney General for such purposes due to [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions’ recusal.”
“Per the DOJ special counsel regulations, Mueller must abide by all DOJ ‘rules, regulations, procedures, practices and policies,'” Columbus wrote.
He added that Rosenstein has the authority to veto any of Mueller’s recommendations.
“By contrast, the independent counsel statute allowed Starr to deviate from DOJ policies where necessary to achieve the purposes of the statute, and didn’t allow the Attorney General to restrict his actions (other than firing him for good cause),” he tweeted.
“Given these rules, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that Mueller would bring a prosecution that, in the judgment of DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, would violate the Constitution,” Columbus added.
“While some have suggested that Mueller would make an ‘impeachment referral’ to Congress if he finds evidence of impeachable acts, that was part of the now-expired independent counsel statute and is no longer an option for Mueller,” Columbus said.
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