The day that many Americans and Congress was waiting for finally arrived: Robert Mueller speaks about the Russia investigation. After so much confusion that was stirred up by both Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr, Mueller obviously felt it was time. The main takeaways he pushed on were that he couldn’t indict Trump only because of the Department of Justice memo stating that a sitting president couldn’t.
As his transcript (below) shows, he stressed that is the only reason why he couldn’t make that determination. He also stressed that the DOJ policy kept him from making a full determination which contradicted what AG Barr has been saying continuously.
Naturally, Trump chose to only hear what he wanted and tweeted out the opposite of what Mueller actually said. Mueller is a very nuanced speaker so much of his speech probably went above the president’s head.
The White House and Trump supporters are following suit on Twitter.
Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, on Wednesday declined to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice in his first public characterization of his two-year-long investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mr. Mueller said, reading from prepared notes behind a lectern at the Justice Department. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
He also said that while Justice Department policy prohibits charging a sitting president with a crime, the Constitution provides for another process to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing — a clear reference to the ability of Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.
Although his remarks closely matched statements contained in his more than 400-page report, Mr. Mueller’s portrayal of Mr. Trump’s actions was not as benign as Attorney General William P. Barr’s characterizations. While Mr. Barr has seemed to question why the special counsel investigated the president’s behavior, Mr. Mueller stressed the gravity of that inquiry.
“When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable,” he said.
He suggested that he was reluctant to testify before Congress, as the House Judiciary Committee has asked. “The report is my testimony,” he said.
He said he was grateful to Mr. Barr for releasing the vast majority of the document and did not expect to comment on it further. He said he was closing the special counsel’s office and returning to private life.
Mr. Trump and his advisers sought to play down Mr. Mueller’s comments. The president said that they made little difference and conflated Mr. Mueller’s assertions that his investigators found insufficient evidence to charge a conspiracy with Russia but declined to make a decision on obstruction because of the prevailing Justice Department view. “The case is closed!” he wrote on Twitter.
Democrats pointed to Mr. Mueller’s remarks as a fresh call for them to investigate the president. Representative Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Congress would continue to scrutinize the president’s “crimes, lies and other wrongdoing.” He added, “No one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law.”
Mr. Nadler has sided with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats who have avoided calling for Mr. Trump’s impeachment, creating division in the Democratic Party. In her own statement after Mr. Mueller’s remarks, Ms. Pelosi sidestepped impeachment.
Representative Justin Amash, the lone Republican in the House who supports impeachment proceedings, said, “The ball is in our court, Congress.”
Mr. Mueller has been at the center of a fight between the Trump administration and House Democrats, who want to hear from him about his nearly two-year investigation.
After Mr. Mueller’s 448-page report was released with redactions in April, House Democrats sought the entire text and underlying evidence, which Mr. Barr has refused to provide, prompting the House Judiciary Committee to recommend that he be held in contempt of Congress. Portions of the report were redacted to protect secret grand jury information, privacy and open investigations.
Mr. Trump has said he would block all subpoenas from Democrats, stymieing their oversight efforts on a variety of issues, including whether he obstructed justice.
On Wednesday, Mr. Mueller said he would not provide any information to lawmakers beyond what was in the report, adding that he was under no instructions about whether he could or should testify before Congress. Mr. Nadler has said he would subpoena Mr. Mueller’s testimony, if necessary.
Mr. Mueller also stressed that the evidence his team uncovered of Russia’s effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election was a threat to the nation’s political system and “deserves the attention of every American.”
Mr. Mueller has objected to the portrayal of the special counsel’s findings provided by Mr. Barr. In particular, Mr. Mueller disputed Mr. Barr’s characterization that the report’s conclusions cleared the president from charges of obstruction of justice. In the report, Mr. Mueller detailed 11 instances in which prosecutors investigated whether the president was deliberately trying to obstruct the investigation.
[As special counsel, Mr. Mueller kept such a low profile he seemed almost invisible.]
“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mr. Mueller and his investigators wrote. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
After Mr. Barr framed the findings, Mr. Trump declared himself vindicated. And Mr. Barr was said to be frustrated that Mr. Mueller did not make a decision about charging Mr. Trump for any of those 11 instances and instead left it to Mr. Barr.
Mr. Trump has lashed out at Democrats for continuing to investigate him, and last week he said he would hold hostage bipartisan legislative priorities until they “get these phony investigations over with.”
Mr. Trump also announced last week that he was delegating extraordinary powers to Mr. Barr to investigate the origins of the Russia inquiry and declassify documents from American intelligence agencies. The move prompted concerns among Democrats and current and former national security officials about the politicization of intelligence, such as the administration declassifying only materials that support Mr. Trump’s view that the investigators illegally opened the inquiry.
“We’re exposing everything,” Mr. Trump said last week.
Robert Mueller Press Address Full Transcript
ROBERT S. MUELLER III, the special counsel: Good morning, everyone, and thank you for being here. Two years ago, the acting attorney general asked me to serve as special counsel and he created the special counsel’s office. The appointment order directed the office to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. This included investigating any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign.
Now, I have not spoken publicly during our investigation. I am speaking out today because our investigation is complete. The attorney general has made the report on our investigation largely public. We are formally closing the special counsel’s office, and as well, I’m resigning from the Department of Justice to return to private life. I’ll make a few remarks about the results of our work. But beyond these few remarks, it is important that the office’s written work speak for itself. Let me begin where the appointment order begins, and that is interference in the 2016 presidential election.As alleged by the grand jury in an indictment, Russian intelligence officers who are part of the Russian military, launched a concerted attack on our political system. The indictment alleges that they used sophisticated cybertechniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization WikiLeaks.
The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate. And at the same time, as the grand jury alleged in a separate indictment, a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation, where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to influence an election. These indictments contain allegations, and we are not commenting on the guilt or the innocence of any specific defendant. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The indictments allege, and the other activities in our report describe, efforts to interfere in our political system. They needed to be investigated and understood. And that is among the reasons why the Department of Justice established our office. That is also a reason we investigated efforts to obstruct the investigation. The matters we investigated were of paramount importance. It was critical for us to obtain full and accurate information from every person we questioned. When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.
Let me say a word about the report. The report has two parts, addressing the two main issues we were asked to investigate. The first volume of the report details numerous efforts emanating from Russia to influence the election. This volume includes a discussion of the Trump campaign’s response to this activity, as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy. And in the second volume, the report describes the results and analysis of our obstruction of justice investigation involving the president.
The order appointing me special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation, and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work. And 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 longstanding 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. A special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider. The department’s written opinion explaining the policy makes several important points that further informed our handling of the obstruction investigation. Those points are summarized in our report, and I will describe two of them for you.
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 — it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.
So that was Justice Department policy. Those were the principles under which we operated. And from them, we concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime. That is the office’s final position, and we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the president. We conducted an independent criminal investigation and reported the results to the attorney general, as required by department regulations.
The attorney general then concluded that it was appropriate to provide our report to Congress and to the American people. At one point in time, I requested that certain portions of the report be released and the attorney general preferred to make — preferred to make the entire report public all at once and we appreciate that the attorney general made the report largely public. And I certainly do not question the attorney general’s good faith in that decision.
Now, I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner. I am making that decision myself. No one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter. 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. In addition, access to our underlying work product is being decided in a process that does not involve our office.
So beyond what I’ve said here today and what is contained in our written work, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress. And it’s for that reason I will not be taking questions today, as well.
Now, before I step away, I want to thank the attorneys, the F.B.I. agents, the analysts, the professional staff who helped us conduct this investigation in a fair and independent manner. These individuals who spent nearly two years with the special counsel’s office were of the highest integrity. And I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple, systemic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American. Thank you. Thank you for being here today.
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