“If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so,” Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in a stunning statement at the DOJ, announcing he was stepping down as special counsel and returning to private life.
In this morning’s statement, Mueller also signaled the degree to which he does not want to testify about the investigation before Jerry Nadler chaired House Judiciary Committee, promising “I would not provide information beyond that which is public, in any appearance before Congress.” vowed not to say anything beyond what is in his report and this morning’s exit-announcement statement.
Briefly walking through his report, Mueller said the first volume details “numerous efforts” by Russia to skew the 2016 presidential race. The volume includes a discussion of the “Trump campaign’s response to this activity.”
The second volume, he said, describes result and analysis of our obstruction of justice investigation involving the president.
He explained that under longstanding department policy, a current POTUS cannot be charge with a federal crime while he is in office. “That is unconstitutional,” he said, “Even if charges Is kept under seal and hidden from public view.”
Special counsel’s office, being part of DOJ, is bound by that department’s policy. “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”
But, he noted, the department permits investigation of a sitting president, “because it is important to preserve evidence while people’s memories are fresh and documents available” for future use.
But, under DOJ policy, “We would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime.”
“This is this office’s final position,” he said, adding that he would not “comment on any other hypothetical about the President.”
As to Attorney General Bill Barr’s decision to spin Mueller’s report long before it was made public, Mueller acknowledged he had asked Barr to release portions of the report before it underwent redacting. Barr, he said, “preferred” to make it available all at once, and issue his CliffsNotes when the report was delivered to him, and Mueller said he would “not question the good faith in that decision. ” He added that this statement is the only time he will speak on the matter.
TV news outlets broke into their programs to report Special Counsel Robert Mueller would make a statement on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. It marked his first public comment since the start of the probe about two years ago. He did not take questions.
Democrats in the House of Representatives have been pushing to have Mueller come testify about his nearly 2-year investigation in public; Mueller is said to have been anxious to dodge that public display. Nadler has vowed to get Mueller before his committee one way or the other. Does not want to testify to House publicly. under pressure to clarify because Bill Barr misconstrued his report. Nadler’s office said he had been given a heads up on the coming statement, adding that talks continue about having Mueller testify before the committee.
On-screen excitement was high in the hour before his appearance, Mueller having sent a summary letter to Barr in late March, chastising Barr for the way he spun Mueller’s 400-page-ish report, in his four-page summary and pre-release presser. In a letter sent to Barr last month, Mueller rebuked the Attorney General that his Cliffs Notes of the report did not accurately capture the context, nature and substance of the special counsel office’s “work and conclusions.”
At his presser, held before the Mueller Report’s public release, Barr insisted “I’m the captain” of Mueller’s team and the report is his “baby.”
In his 4-page missive and his presser, Barr insisted Trump had been fully exonerated on both collusion and obstruction. Based on Barr’s spinning of Mueller’s report, Trump tweeted “Game Over” and pinched a Game of Thrones image as Barr finished spinning his redacted Mueller report on Russian election meddling and Trump campaign participation.
POTUS continues to insist Mueller’s report was a complete exoneration of him, but has continued attacking the investigation and is fully behind Barr’s announcement he will investigate the investigation.
In his report, Mueller found 10 instances of Trump possibly obstructing justice. But – acting more as counselor for the defense than the U.S. Attorney General, to paraphrase Fox News’s Chris Wallace – Barr said at his pre-report release presser, he disagreed with some of Mueller’s “legal theories” about obstruction of justice. Barr argued POTUS had merely been angry and frustrated by the investigation that had plagued his administration since he took office. Barr also insisted Trump cooperated fully with the investigation, though Trump had refused to be interviewed by Mueller’s team, answered only a limited scope of questioning in writing, and blasted the investigation from the White House, calling it a Witch Hunt, and Mueller team’s criminal, on a daily basis.
Likely not coincidentally, Mueller’s statement came on a day when Barr out of town, as is Congress. The AG got a heads up Wednesday morning that the statement was coming and was briefed on its contents.White House also got a heads up; Republicans on the Hill did not.