Announcing his resignation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Wednesday that charging President Donald Trump with a crime was “not an option,” citing department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
“Under longstanding department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional,” said Mueller. “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”
Mueller also noted that “the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,” likely referring to Congressional impeachment proceedings.
In Wednesday’s address–Mueller’s first public statement since the start of the roughly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election–the special counsel resigned from his role at the Justice Department and reiterated the findings of his office’s report.
“There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election,” said Mueller. “And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.”
Mueller emphasized that he would not speak further on the matter, and if he were to testify in front of Congress, no new information would be provided. “The report is my testimony,” he said.
Upon the end of the special counsel investigation in March, Attorney General William Barr released a four-page summary of Mueller’s more than 400-page report, sparking complaints that the AG was attempting to hide evidence that would be unflattering to the president. Indeed, the redacted report, released in April, shows Trump called the Mueller investigation “the end of my presidency” and attempted to thwart the investigation.
In Barr’s summary of the report (which Mueller has previously told him “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions”), he concluded there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice. This is despite the fact that Mueller’s report specifically states that while it found no conclusive evidence of crime, it “does not exonerate him.”
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said Wednesday, noting his office is appreciative of the fact Barr made the report “largely public.”
Trump, meanwhile, has latched onto the phrase “no collusion,” citing the reports determination that while the Trump campaign may have expected to benefit from Russian interference in the 2016 election, the investigation did not find evidence that the campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
In response to Mueller’s statement, Trump tweeted, “Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed!”
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg told NBC that Mueller’s statement was “as close to an impeachment referral as you could get under the circumstances.”
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