I understand what Mueller has tried to do. He has been careful. He understands the stakes of his investigation, and he has erred on the side of caution — the far, far, side of caution, it turns out, to the point of obscuring his own factual findings and legal conclusions. He has tried so hard to color inside the lines that he hasn’t completed the picture.
Because Justice Department policy counsels against indicting a sitting president, Mueller “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.” Mueller took it a step further: not only did he not indict (consistent with the policy), but he declined even to say whether he found sufficient evidence to indict.
Instead, Mueller gave us an ambiguous, Yoda-like pronouncement: “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.” Ultimately, Mueller declared to head-scratching effect that “[w]hile this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Elie Honig is a CNN legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor.