Republican Ratcliffe: It Was Not Mueller's Job to 'Conclusively Determine Donald Trump's Innocence or to Exonerate Him'

By Susan Jones | July 24, 2019 | 9:42am EDT
Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

( - Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's team wrote that after looking at the evidence, it could not "conclusively" determine "that no criminal conduct occurred."

"Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him," the Mueller report says.



Why would Mueller state such a thing, one Judiciary Committee Republican wondered:

"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?" Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) asked the former FBI director-turned-special counsel:

"I cannot, but this is a unique situation," Mueller responded.

"Let's just leave it at you can't find it, because I’ll tell you why -- it doesn't exist," Ratcliffe said.

He continued:

The special counsel's job -- nowhere does it say that you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump's innocence or that the special counsel report should determine whether or not to exonerate him. It's not in any of the documents; it's not in your appointment order; it's not in the special counsel regulations; it's not in the OLC opinions, it's not in the Justice manuals, and it's not in the principles of 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 to exonerate him. Because the bedrock principle of our justice system is a presumption of innocence. It exists for everyone. 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 doesn't exist anywhere in the department policies -- and used it to write a report. The very first line of your report -- the very first line of your report says, as you read this morning, it authorizes the special counsel to provide the attorney general with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the special counsel. ...Here's the problem, Director. The Special counsel didn't do that.

On Volume 1 you did. On Volume 2, with respect to potential obstruction of justice, the special counsel made neither a prosecution decision nor a declination decision. He made no decision. You told us this morning and in your report that you made no determination, so respectfully, Director, you didn't follow the special counsel regulations.

It clearly says, write a confidential report about decisions reached. Nowhere in here does it say write a report about decisions that weren't reached. You wrote 180 pages -- 180 pages -- about decisions that weren't reached, about potential crimes that weren't charged or decided. And respectfully -- respectfully -- by doing that you managed to violate every principle and the most sacred of traditions about prosecutors not offering extra-prosecutorial analysis about potential crimes that aren't charged.

So Americans need to know this as they listen to the Democrats and socialists on the other side of the aisle, as they do dramatic readings from this report, that Volume 2 of this report was not authorized under the law to be written. 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 2 of this report puts him.

Ratcliffe’s time was up and Mueller did not have the opportunity to respond.

"Wow," tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, in response to Ratcliffe's questioning. "Robert Mueller changing the job of a prosecutor from proving someone ‘Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt’ to ‘Not being able to exonerate someone accused of a crime.’ Dangerous and ridiculous."

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