Politics

White House lawyer slams Mueller report for making 'political statements'

Key Points
  • White House lawyer Emmet Flood sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr accusing special counsel Robert Mueller of making political statement in his report on Russia and President Donald Trump.
  • Flood, who joined the White House legal team in May 2018, worked as an impeachment attorney for President Bill Clinton.
  • Flood's five-page letter to Barr claimed that the report on Mueller's far-reaching probe should not be legitimized or taken as precedent, and argued that Trump has retained his executive privilege rights related to the probe.
Acting White House Counsel Emmet Flood walks in the halls of the Russell Senate Office Building before heading into the offices of Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr on Capitol Hill January 09, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

White House lawyer Emmet Flood sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr accusing special counsel Robert Mueller of making "political statements" in his report on Russia and President Donald Trump.

Flood's five-page letter to Barr claimed that the report on Mueller's far-reaching probe should not be legitimized or taken as precedent, and argued that Trump has retained his executive privilege rights related to the probe.

The letter to Barr is dated April 19 — a day after the public release of a redacted version of Mueller's 448-page report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, possible collusion with the Kremlin and possible obstruction of justice by Trump himself.

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Mueller's report "suffers from an extraordinary legal defect," Flood wrote. "It quite deliberately fails to comply with the requirements of governing law."

Flood zeroed in on one specific excerpt from the report, in which Mueller's team says that the evidence they obtained about potential obstruction by Trump prevents them "from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred."

Conclusively finding innocence, Flood argued, "is never the task of the federal prosecutor." Rather, they are supposed to complete their investigation and then ask a grand jury to decide on whether or not to lodge charges.

"Our country would be a very different (and very dangerous) place if prosecutors applied the SCO standard and citizens were obliged to prove 'conclusively ... that no criminal conduct occurred.'"

The excerpt from the Mueller report "can be understood only as political statements," Flood continued, even though prosecutors are "expected never to be political in the performance of their duties."

This, Flood wrote, "shows that the special counsel and his staff failed in their duty to act as prosecutors and only as prosecutors."

A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment on the letter.

Flood, who joined the White House legal team in May 2018, worked as an impeachment attorney for President Bill Clinton. The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Flood was expected to leave his post following the release of the Mueller report.

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Mueller's report did not find sufficient evidence to show coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, and did not make a decision on the question of whether Trump obstructed justice — a move Barr repeatedly criticized in Senate testimony on Wednesday. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, however, determined that the evidence was "not sufficient" to establish an obstruction offense.

Barr released a version of the report with redactions in four categories, including grand jury materials. Trump, wrote Flood, did not withhold anything in the report from the public on executive privilege grounds, despite having a "right to assert such a privilege."

But that decision doesn't affect Trump's ability to instruct his advisors not to appear before congressional committees to answer questions about the Mueller probe, Flood noted.

Read Flood's letter to Attorney General William Barr below: