Donald Trump Will Not Have Immunity From Prosecution Forever, Warns Ex-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara

Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said he was surprised by special counsel Robert Mueller's decision not to prosecute President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice.

But Bharara, who was appointed by Barack Obama and fired by Trump in the early weeks of his administration, warned the president that Mueller's 448-page report left the door open to prosecution once he leaves the White House—and so his immunity—behind.

Mueller laid out the evidence that Trump attempted to obstruct justice by interfering with the Russia investigation but stopped short of accusing the president of any crimes. Mueller also stated that he did not exonerate the president of obstruction.

"It's a little head-scratching, it's a little bewildering, and I think lots of people have been surprised about it and I'm one of those people," Bharara told the BBC's Hardtalk program.

"I think it's important to hear from Bob Mueller directly so he can answer forthrightly why he did it this way. We can infer some things from what he says in the report."

Bharara said one inference is that Mueller chose not to pursue Trump on obstruction because of the Justice Department's guidance that it is unconstitutional to indict or prosecute a sitting president.

"Bob Mueller said, if I had sufficient evidence to say that there was a crime it would be unfair for me to make that declaration because against the backdrop of this opinion that says you can't prosecute a president, he would not be able to clear his good name at a trial," Bharara said.

"I think it's also clear that he was leaving this issue to Congress and he was also leaving it to potentially future prosecutors if and when the president of the United States leaves office.

"Because he's very clear saying we have preserved the evidence while memories are fresh and while documents are available, meaning at some point Donald Trump will not have this immunity from prosecution."

Some Democrats in Congress believe Mueller's report—which included instances where Trump tried to have the special counsel fired—contains enough evidence to launch impeachment proceedings, though others are hesitant because of the political risks of doing so.

Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that the evidence presented by Mueller was not sufficient to prosecute Trump for obstruction.

One of the reasons for the decision by Barr and Rosenstein is Mueller did not establish that Trump or his campaign conspired with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 election, meaning there was no underlying crime.

Bharara told The Daily Beast previously that "there's a reasonable likelihood" Trump will be prosecuted once he leaves office over his status as a co-conspirator in the conviction of his former attorney Michael Cohen for campaign finance violations.

Donald Trump Preet Bharara Mueller
President Donald Trump talks to the media on the South Lawn of the White House on April 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. Preet Bharara said the time is coming when Trump won't have presidential immunity. Pete Marovich/Getty Images