Politics

Ratcliffe: Trump Isn’t Above The Law, But He ‘Damn Sure Shouldn’t Be Below It’

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor

Republican Texas Rep John Ratcliffe ripped into former special counsel Robert Mueller over his claims that he was “unable to exonerate” President Donald Trump.

Ratcliffe began by reading directly from Volume II of the report.

“The special counsel did not make what you call a traditional proclamation, the report on the bottom of page two of Volume II reads,  ‘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.’ I read that correctly?” Ratcliffe asked.

“Yes,” Mueller replied.

Ratcliffe then challenged the statement on its face, asking Mueller to identify what Justice Department policy or official charge of his investigation suggested that it was his job to “exonerate” the president in the first place. (RELATED: ‘No Exoneration!’ Is The New Rallying Cry. It’s True — But It’s Not The Whole Truth)

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“Which DOJ policy or principle sets forth a legal standard that an investigated person is ‘not exonerated’ if their innocence from criminal conduct is not conclusively determined? Where does that language come from, director?” Ratcliffe asked.

Mueller asked for clarification, and Ratcliffe obliged: “Can you give me an example other than Donald Trump where the Justice Department determined that an investigated person was not exonerated because their innocence was not conclusively determined?”

“I cannot,” Mueller conceded, adding, “But this is a unique situation.”

“Time is short,” Ratcliffe responded. “You can’t find it, because I will tell you why: It doesn’t exist. In the special counsel’s job nowhere does it say that you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or that the special counsel should determine whether or not to exonerate him. It’s not in any of the documents, your appointment order, the special counsel regulations, the justice manual or the principles of federal prosecution.”

“Nowhere do those words appear together because respectfully, respectfully, director, it was not the special counsel’s job to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or exonerate him because the bedrock principle of our justice system is a presumption of innocence,” Ratcliffe continued. “Everyone is entitled to it, including sitting presidents. And because there is a presumption of innocence, prosecutors never ever need to conclusively determine it. Now director, the special counsel applied this inverted burden of proof that I can’t find and you said it doesn’t exist anywhere in the department policies and you used it to write a report.”

Ratcliffe went on to outline the differences between Volumes I and II of the report, arguing that Mueller had followed the initial charge of the investigation and reached a conclusion in Volume I but had failed to do so in Volume II.

“Volume II of this report was not authorized under the law to be written,” Ratcliffe concluded. “It was written to a legal standard that does not exist at the Justice Department and it was written in violation of every DOJ principle about extra-prosecutorial commentary. I agree with the chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law. He’s not. But he damn sure shouldn’t be below the law, which is where Volume II of this report put him.”