The answer is almost certainly … Robert Mueller. But that doesn’t make for a good conspiracy theory, which Ted Lieu clearly wants to foment. Instead of acknowledging that Mueller returned to the explanation in his report about the potential for charging Donald Trump with obstruction, Lieu thinks someone “got to him” to steal the win that Lieu got during his examination of the special counsel:
Rep. @tedlieu responds to Robert Mueller's clarification regarding guidance against indicting a President: “I don't know who got to him, I don’t know who talked to him, but that was very odd.” https://t.co/hKfyEFb7BC pic.twitter.com/kasLWHrjVu
— CNN (@CNN) July 25, 2019
This is tinfoil-hat territory, not entirely an unfamiliar landscape for Lieu, for at least two reasons. First, Lieu himself misstated Mueller’s position when he asked for Mueller’s response. Despite the report being very clear that the special counsel had not taken a position on whether these incidents would have been charged otherwise, and despite William Barr also making that clear in his own letter to Congress, Lieu himself declared that the only reason that Mueller didn’t charge Trump was because of the OLC memo. That one slipped by Mueller initially, but even at that moment he belatedly realized what Lieu was trying to do:
LIEU: Thank you. So to recap what we’ve heard, we have heard today that the president ordered former White House Counsel, Don McGahn, to fire you. The president ordered Don McGahn to then cover that up and create a false paper trail. And now we’ve heard the president ordered Corey Lewandowski to tell Jeff Sessions to limit your investigation so that he — you stop investigating the president. I believe any reasonable person looking at these facts could conclude that all three elements of the crime of obstruction of justice have been met. And I’d like to ask you the reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?
MUELLER: That is correct.
LIEU: The fact that their orders by the president were not carried out, that is not a defense to obstruction of justice because a statute itself is quite dry. It says that as long as you endeavor or attempt to obstruct justice, that would also constitute a crime.
MUELLER: I’m not going to get into that at this juncture.
LIEU: OK. Thank you, and based on the evidence that we have heard today, I believe a reasonable person could conclude that at least three crimes of obstruction of justice by the president occurred. We’re going to hear about two additional crimes. That would be the witnessed hamperings of Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, and I yield back.
MUELLER: Well, the only thing I want to add is that I’m going through the elements with you do not mean or does not mean that I subscribe to the — what you’re trying to prove through those elements.
Later, Mueller reversed his “that is correct” by restating what was written in his report:
Now, before we go to questions I want to add one correction to my testimony this morning. I wanted to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu. It was said, and I quote, “you didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion.” That is not the correct way to say it. As we say in the report and as I said in the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.
So yes, someone got to Mueller, and it was Mueller’s own report. Lieu’s just sore that his bogus point scored in the first hearing got taken off the scoreboard in the second. But it’s worse than that; Lieu just casually impugned Mueller’s integrity in order to keep his phony point — at a time when Democrats are trying to argue that Mueller’s integrity is so impressive that his judgment on Trump can’t be questioned. It’s nutty and self-defeating, but in Lieu’s defense, that pretty much describes everything Democrats have done with Mueller this week.