Professor Frank Bowman explains that a recent Washington Post report that President Trump “is not a target” in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller does not mean that Trump should feel relieved. In an April 7 guest commentary by Bowman in The Kansas City Star – “Trump shouldn’t relax to hear he isn’t a ‘target’ in Mueller investigation” and a recent Slate article, “The Report that Trump Is Not a Target of the Mueller Probe Is Actually Terrible News for the President,” Bowman notes that the Department of Justice definition of a target covers a person against whom the prosecutor has substantial evidence and “who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.” Because DOJ guidelines say that a sitting president cannot be indicted, that also means that he cannot technically be a putative defendant – at least while in office. The result, says Bowman, is that the “non-target” designation reveals little about how much evidence Mueller has on Trump.
The Slate article also discusses the report that Mueller’s office told President Trump’s lawyers that it wants to issue a report on its investigation, but only after doing an interview with him. The DOJ generally does not issue public findings in cases where someone has been exonerated. If the report finds that the president obstructed justice, but could not be indicted because of DOJ guidelines, Bowman says, “[T]he appropriate response from Congress would be for the House Judiciary Committee to immediately open an impeachment inquiry.”