Republican Ohio Rep. Mike Turner argued Wednesday that, in regard to President Donald Trump, former special counsel Robert Mueller “had no more power to declare him exonerated than you have to declare him Anderson Cooper.”
Turner suggested, during Wednesday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing, that Mueller’s decision to state definitively that Trump was “not exonerated” by his report was an attempt to address the American public and the media rather than Attorney General William Barr, to whom the report was actually addressed. (RELATED: Mueller Told DOJ He Wasn’t Charging Trump Due To Lack Of Evidence 3 TIMES)
Turner began by asking Mueller whether there was, somewhere within the Justice Department, a “Department of Exonerations.” He then argued that there was no such department, adding that exoneration was outside the power of either the attorney general or the special counsel.
“If the Attorney general doesn’t have the power to exonerate, then you don’t have the power to exonerate, and I believe he knows he doesn’t have the power to exonerate,” Turner explained. “This is what I don’t understand. If your report is to the Attorney General, and the Attorney General doesn’t have the power to exonerate and he does not — and he knows you do not have that power, you don’t have to tell him that you’re not exonerating the president. He knows this already. So then that kind of changes the context of the report.”
Mueller argued that he had specifically included that comment in case Barr was unaware that his report did not exonerate the president.
“So you believe Bill Barr believes somewhere in the hallways of the Department of Justice there’s an office of exoneration?” Turner asked.
“No, that’s not what I said,” Mueller replied.
“Well I believe he knows and I don’t believe you put that in there for Mr. Barr,” Turner shot back. “I think you put that in there for exactly what I’m going to discuss next, and that is that The Washington Post yesterday, when speaking of your report, the article said Trump could not be exonerated of trying to obstruct the investigation itself. Trump could not be exonerated. That statement is correct, Mr. Mueller, isn’t it, in that no one can be exonerated?”
Turner went on to explain further, arguing that exoneration was the wrong standard to hold up simply because there was no way to exonerate anyone. “This reporter can’t be exonerated. Mr. Mueller, you can’t be exonerated. In fact, in our criminal justice system, there is no power or authority to exonerate,” Turner continued. “This is my concern, Mr. Mueller. This is the headline on all of the channels while you were testifying today. ‘Mueller: Trump was not exonerated.’ Mr. Mueller, what you know is it can’t say Mueller exonerated Trump. You don’t have the power or authority to exonerate Trump. You had no more power to declare him exonerated than you have to declare him Anderson Cooper.”
“The statement about exoneration is misleading,” Turner accused in conclusion. “And it’s meaningless, and it colors this investigation. One word out of the entire portion of your report, and it’s a meaningless word that has no legal meaning, and it has colored your entire report.”