-6

In Robert Mueller's statements following the conclusion of his investigation said if he had the evidence the president did not commit a crime he would have said so (paraphrasing). This sounds like the clearest example of trying to prove a negative. Logically speaking, you can’t prove someone did not do something. Is it possible there is some legal language he was speaking in where this makes sense?

  • Downvote for paraphrasing which changes the question. The actual quote is "If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so", which is different from " if he had the evidence the president did not commit a crime he would have said so". They weren't looking for evidence he didn't commit a crime, but if they had found nothing showing Trump could have commited a crime Mueller would have said so. – RWW May 30 '19 at 16:02
  • 1
    Also remember that sometimes it IS possible to prove a negative. If I claim someone robbed a bank in New York on the 30th May 2019, and they can prove they were in California for all of that day, then the claim is disproved. – DJClayworth May 30 '19 at 17:46
  • Unclear why this was put in hold for discrediting something. No one dislikes trump more than I. The valid critisim I saw was the phrasing of confinence cvs evidence. I think my misunderstanding makes the question invalid. Should I delete or preserve for future reference on good comment discussion? – spmoose May 30 '19 at 19:05
  • I think you should read departments.bloomu.edu/philosophy/pages/content/hales/… Your actual question (as I see it) has little to do with politics. Perhaps ask on philosophy SE if you're still confused. – Fizz May 31 '19 at 0:57
7

For any normal citizen, a prosecutor can arrive at one of three conclusions:

  1. There is no evidence of misdeeds, so file under innocent.
  2. There is not enough evidence of misdeeds to fight in court, so file under innocent.
  3. There is plenty of evidence of misdeeds, so prosecute.

But the US President isn't a normal citizen. There's a DOJ doctrine whereby he's too busy a person to prosecute. Mueller explicitly accepts that doctrine in his report. So his options were:

  1. There is no evidence of misdeeds, so file under innocent.
  2. There is not enough evidence of misdeeds to fight in court, so file under innocent.
  3. There is plenty of evidence of misdeeds, so cannot file under innocent.

Mueller picked option 3, made this explicit in his report, and said so again this week during his press conference. It can be tempting for someone who is partisan to suggest that, actually, this could also mean he picked 2. It could have indeed, except that:

  1. Mueller's report explicitly exonerates a few people on the basis that, while there's some evidence of misdeeds, they fall under option 2. This suggests that while the evidence against, say, Trump's son, wasn't enough to indict, the evidence against Trump himself is more serious.

  2. His report goes on to document a whole slew of evidence that, in the opinion of quite a few former prosecutors, would have led to option 3 for a normal person

  3. His report has an interesting footnote that basically invites to prosecute Trump once he is out of office.

  • 1
    Do prosecutors in the US "file under innocent"? Or do they just decide (e.g. based on lack of evidence) not to prosecute? From my limited understanding, one only arrives at the "innocent" conclusion (on some count) if the prosecutors did prosecute but a jury finds the defendant not guilty of that count. – JJ for Transparency and Monica May 30 '19 at 14:20
  • 3
    @JJJ: you're innocent until proven guilty, so it stands to reason that if you decide to not prosecute then you're de facto filing that person under innocent (however much you think there's residual doubt). – Denis de Bernardy May 30 '19 at 14:31
  • Fair enough, though there is a distinction between being found innocent (by a court of law) and being innocent because you haven't been tried yet. Specifically, if you have been found innocent of something by a court then they cannot just try to prosecute again. If they held of because there wasn't enough evidence they can prosecute later on. How that distinction works in US law, that I don't know. ;) – JJ for Transparency and Monica May 30 '19 at 14:38
  • @JJJ Of course "file under" is only meant figuratively here. They do not have two large file cabinets, one labelled "innocent" and one labelled "prosecuting", files are certainly rather kept (if we are still talking about paper files) ordered by last name and only marked with conclusions. Option 2 represents the situation that the prosecutor estimates that a win in court would be too unlikely to be worth the effort or (not sure if this applies to US) the potential harmful effect of a probably not-to-be-found-guilty person being exposed to lengthy proceedings. – Hagen von Eitzen May 30 '19 at 18:01
  • 1
    @JeffLambert yea, I think a lot depends on jurisdiction. For example, Scotland has two types of acquittal: not guilty and not proven (with double jeopardy not applying to the second). Going through the Wiki page in different languages, it seems many jurisdictions have their own complex exceptions to the rule (of double jeopardy). – JJ for Transparency and Monica May 31 '19 at 12:41

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .