Special counsel Robert Mueller carefully laid out an obstruction of justice case against President Donald Trump, which the attorney general intercepted and then tried to cover up.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, writing for Politico Magazine, walked through Mueller's findings and exposed Attorney General William Barr's efforts to shield findings of criminal wrongdoing from the public.
"Barr intentionally misled the American people about Mueller’s findings and his legal reasoning," Mariotti said. "As a former federal prosecutor, when I look at Mueller’s work, I don’t see a murky set of facts. I see a case meticulously laid out by a prosecutor who knew he was not allowed to bring it."
Department of Justice guidelines prohibit the indictment of a sitting president, but Mariotti said the special counsel clearly concluded that Trump abused his power to undermine the nearly two-year-long investigation into his campaign ties to Russia, which was also laid out in startling detail.
Mueller did not reach a conclusion that Trump had obstructed justice because, as the special counsel makes explicit in his report, his inability to indict the president meant that Trump could not go to court to challenge the charges against him.
"If he had reached a conclusion that Trump obstructed justice, Mueller wrote, Trump could not go to court to obtain a 'speedy and public trial' with the 'procedural protections' afforded to a criminal defendant by the Constitution," Mariotti said.
Trump and his allies, including the attorney general, are exploiting that small loophole -- and the public's misunderstanding of the finer points of constitutional law -- to claim that Mueller found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
"Reading Mueller’s report," Mariotti said, "it is obvious the contortions Barr undertook to pronounce Trump exonerated. In the report, Mueller went out of his way to debunk Barr’s unconventional view that the Constitution 'categorically and permanently immunize[d]' Trump from prosecution for abusing his power to undermine the investigation."
Barr deliberately misled the public in his March letter summarizing Mueller's findings, Mariotti said, by omitting a portion of a sentence from the special counsel's report to claim the investigation had not established that "members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
However, the rest of that sentence in Mueller's report showed investigators had established that the Russian government believed it would benefit from a Trump presidency, and undertook efforts to make that happen, and the campaign believed it would benefit from those efforts.
"If I engaged in that sort of selective quotation in a court of law," Mariotti wrote, "I would be censured for misleading the court. As attorney general of the United States, Barr should be held to a higher standard than any ordinary lawyer. There can be no serious question that Barr deliberately misled the American people and its elected representatives about a matter of the utmost public concern."
Barr has insisted that Mueller left the decision on obstruction up to him, as attorney general, but in fact Mueller concluded that Congress had the authority to remove Trump from office.
"And now Congress can see the case Mueller laid out," Mariotti said.