Democrats ask Mueller if Trump could avoid criminal charges if he serves a 2nd term

Former special counsel Robert Mueller was asked Wednesday whether President Trump might escape criminal prosecution on possible obstruction of justice charges if he were reelected in 2020.

“I’m not certain I can see the possibility you suggest,” Mueller told Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., as his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee got underway.

Earlier in the day, Mueller told members of the House Judiciary Committee that his office had not recommended charging Trump with a crime based on a ruling by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that states a sitting president cannot be indicted. Mueller also testified that Trump could be charged with obstruction of justice after he left office.

According to the U.S. criminal code, however, the statute of limitations on federal obstruction of justice crimes is five years, which would imply that if he is reelected and serves a second term, ending in 2025, Trump could not be prosecuted for acts covered in the Mueller report.

Quigley noted this possibility when it was his turn to question Mueller.

“The follow-up question that should be concerning is, what if a president serves beyond the statute of limitations?” Quigley asked.

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Robert Mueller testimony
Former special counsel Robert Mueller arrives to testify before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, arrives to testify before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, is sworn in before he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, is sworn in before he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, checks pages in the report as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller arrives to testify before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, accompanied by his top aide in the investigation Aaron Zebley, right, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, accompanied by his top aide in the investigation Aaron Zebley, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, accompanied by his top aide in the investigation Aaron Zebley, right, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., listens as former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, accompanied by his top aide in the investigation Aaron Zebley, listens to a question as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., asks questions to former special counsel Robert Mueller, as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., asks questions to former special counsel Robert Mueller, as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A quote from the Muller report is displayed on a screen as former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019, before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, questions former special counsel Robert Mueller as Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019, before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Mueller's report on Russian election interference. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, looks at papers as he questions former special counsel Robert Mueller during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller checks pages in the report as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, questions former special counsel Robert Mueller during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. At left is Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas., asks questions to former special counsel Robert Mueller, as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, asks questions to former special counsel Robert Mueller, as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., asks questions to former special counsel Robert Mueller, as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas., asks questions to former special counsel Robert Mueller, as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller arrives to testify to the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller looks at notes as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. A line from Mueller's report is shown on the rear screen during the hearing. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller is sworn in by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to testify before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. At left is Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and center is Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller is sworn in by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to testify before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, arrives to testify before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Former special counsel Robert Mueller arrives to testify before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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“I don’t know the answer to that one,” Mueller replied.

“Would it not indicate that if the statute of limitations on federal crimes such as this are five years that a president who serves a second term is therefore, under the policy, above the law?” Quigley pressed.

“I’m not certain I would agree with the conclusion,” Mueller responded.

Many Democrats, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., have posited that Trump will face charges after leaving office.

“My takeaway is there’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him. That he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time,” Schiff told CBS’s “Face the Nation” in December.

But that scenario is contingent on several factors, including whether Trump is defeated in 2020.

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