In his first public remarks since his appointment, United States Special Counsel Robert Mueller confirmed his report’s main findings of Russian interference in the 2016 election but did not clear President Donald Trump of wrongdoing.
On the question of Obstruction of Justice, Mueller said a sitting President could not be charged with a federal crime while in office due to a policy of the Department of Justice, which makes such a determination unconstitutional.
But on the Russian collusion question with the Trump campaign, he reiterated that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.
Mueller confirmed that Russia’s military and intelligence launched a concerted attack on the US political system during the 2016 presidential election, to – among others – hack into the computers and networks of the Clinton campaign and steal private information later released through Wikileaks – a matter he believes deserves the attention of every American. The second volume of his report deals with the question of Obstruction of Justice by President Trump and Mueller again did not clear the President of wrongdoing.
“As set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime. The introduction to the volume II of our report explains that decision. It explains that under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too, is prohibited.”
He continued to explain that the Special Counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice, is by regulation bound by department policy and that charging the President was therefore not an option. But he did leave the door open to possible action by the United States Congress.
“First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president, because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could be charged now. And second, the opinion says that the constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing. And beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.”
President Trump, who was clearly watching the statement on television – immediately tweeted afterwards that “Nothing Changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent.” Mueller also hinted that he was not keen to appear before Congressional probes, whether publicly or otherwise.
“There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress. “
Countering the narrative from the President, Mueller said individuals who spent nearly two years working in his office served with the highest integrity. He also indicated that with the investigation concluded that the office would close and that he was resigning from the Justice Department to return to private life – as the battle over his report’s findings continues to play itself out in the United States Congress.