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Trump unfairly faces presumption of guilt

Opinion Piece

The bedrock on which justice is built is that everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Consider then Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s most inflammatory statement regarding his Russia election interference probe: “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

This “very strange statement”, in the words of Attorney General William Barr, reversed the legal duty that prosecutors are supposed to follow. Their job is not to exonerate someone or prove an individual’s innocence.

Mueller is arguing that he couldn’t prove the president did not commit a crime. It’s a double negative. Were this case to proceed, the burden of proof would have shifted to the president to disprove the negative. Mueller had devised a new standard that only applies to Trump — presumption of guilt.

In part two of Mueller’s report he implies that the president may have obstructed justice, by relating tales of suspicious behaviour instead of stated evidence that rose to the level of criminality. Justice Department rules forbid prosecutors from outlining negative narratives about any person who has not been charged. Mueller had told the AG at a meeting on March 5 that he wouldn’t be reaching a prosecutorial decision on obstruction and that this definitely didn’t have anything to do with the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion that a sitting president couldn’t be indicted. However, a week ago Mueller made his first public comments in two years at a press conference and, bizarrely, claimed the OLC opinion was precisely why he hadn’t made a prosecutorial decision.

The AG felt that Mueller could have made a call on the president’s guilt and simply left the matter in the hands of the Justice Department. Mueller’s aim all along was to set the impeachment process in motion. He knew there was no collusion. He pursued the obstruction canard, counting on the impeachment of Trump, a president whom he hated because of the Comey sacking.

Ironically, had he made the call, Barr would have won the ensuing legal argument on obstruction and the case would have been put to rest.

Patrick Cooper