Speaking for the first time publicly, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller said on Wednesday that the report should speak for itself and that charging the president was never an option for his office, reiterating that if Donald Trump did not obstruct justice, he would have said so.
Charging the president with a crime was “not an option we could consider,” he told reporters in an eight-minute statement, citing Department of Justice guidelines against charging a sitting president.
“We concluded that we could not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime,” Mueller said, emphasizing “that is the office’s final position, and we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the president.”
“If we had confidence the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” the former attorney general said.
Mueller went on to add that it would not be fair to make an accusation that could not be tried in court.
The special counsel also emphasized that one of the probe’s key findings was “multiple, systemic” vote meddling by the Russian Federation, which he called a “concerted attack” on U.S. democracy.
Though there are rumours Mueller could appear before the U.S. Congress, he made it clear that he does not expect that to happen, saying “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.”
Legal analysts summarized what Mueller said on Wednesday. According to their description, the special counsel said he would not offer much more beyond the report for Democrats, who are considering impeachment for Trump, and that the report essentially outlines all he would say.
The president, who reportedly watched Mueller’s announcement live on TV, said just minutes after the special counsel finished speaking that “nothing changes from the Mueller Report” and that there was “insufficient evidence” so “the case is closed”.
Trump has maintained that he was exonerated by the Mueller report released in April.
More responses came in following the statement.
Doug Collins is a Republican Congressman.
Julian Castro is a Democrat and presidential candidate.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of Mueller’s 448-page report in April that concluded the presidential campaign of Donald Trump did not engage in a criminal conspiracy with Russia to win the 2016 election.
Mueller at the time declined to make a judgement on whether the president obstructed justice — a position he maintained on Wednesday — though the report outlines 10 instances where Trump tried to impeded the special council investigation.
The president has since claimed the two-year Mueller probe “fully exonerated” him after calling the probe a “witch hunt” since the investigation launched in 2017 when the special counsel was appointed by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.