- The special counsel Robert Mueller made his first public statement on the FBI’s Russia investigation Wednesday morning.
- Speaking from the Justice Department’s headquarters, Mueller announced that he was officially closing the Russia investigation and resigning from the DOJ.
- Mueller echoed several details from his final report in the Russia investigation and put particular emphasis on the obstruction-of-justice probe into President Donald Trump.
- “The matters we investigated were of paramount importance and it was critical for us to obtain full and accurate information from every person we questioned,” he said. “When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation oral lies to investigators it strikes at the core of the government’s effort to strike at the truth and hold wrong doers accountable.”
- Mueller said that if he testifies before Congress, he will not go beyond what’s contained in the report. He also said he doesn’t question Attorney General William Barr’s “good faith” in the way he portrayed the Mueller report.
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The special counsel Robert Mueller made his first public statement on the FBI’s Russia investigation Wednesday morning.
“I’m speaking out today because our investigation is complete,” Mueller said. “The attorney general [William Barr] 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.”
Mueller went on to say that he would make “a few remarks” about his work, but highlighted that “it is important that the office’s written work speak for itself.”
Mueller was tasked with investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and any “links and/or coordination” between members of President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Mueller was also mandated to investigate any crimes that may have arose as a result of Russia’s interference, like obstruction of justice.
The special counsel detailed his office’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers who “launched a concerted attack on our political system.” He also went over prosecutors’ indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities charged with launching a social media disinformation campaign to meddle in the race.
The special counsel also spoke about his office’s investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice throughout the course of the investigation.
“The matters we investigated were of paramount importance and it was critical for us to obtain full and accurate information from every person we questioned,” he said. “When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation oral lies to investigators it strikes at the core of the government’s effort to strike at the truth and hold wrong doers accountable.” Mueller also quoted directly from his final report and said that, “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,” he added.
In explaining his reasoning, the special counsel pointed to three factors:
- A 1973 Office of Legal Counsel decision that said a sitting president cannot be indicted. For that reason, Mueller said, charging Trump with a federal crime while he’s in office “is unconstitutional.”
- Prosecutors believed that if their report suggested Trump could face federal charges without actually bringing them, it would not be fair because there would be no trial, and he wouldn’t have an opportunity to clear himself.
- Mueller did not consider filing a sealed indictment against Trump out of fear that it would be leaked and significantly impede his ability to govern.
“Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider,” Mueller said.
On Wednesday, Mueller touched on reports of friction between his office and Barr, particularly their disagreement over how to release the report.
Before Mueller’s report was released to the public, the attorney general took the unusual step of releasing his own summary of the document. Barr’s “principal conclusions” left out critical context and allowed Trump and his allies to claim “complete and total exoneration,” when in fact Mueller’s findings were far more ambiguous, especially in the obstruction-of-justice case against Trump.
Mueller’s team laid out an extensive roadmap of evidence against Trump and indicated in the report that it was up to Congress to investigate the obstruction question further. But Barr took it upon himself to announce, before the report was released, that Trump had not committed an obstruction offence.
“At one point in time I requested that certain portions of the report be released,” Mueller said Wednesday. “The attorney general preferred to make that – preferred to make the entire report public all at once, and we appreciate that the attorney general made the report largely public,” Mueller said. “And I certainly do not question the attorney general’s good faith in that decision.”
Finally, Mueller said that any testimony he gives on the matter to Congress will “not go beyond our report.”
“It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made,” Mueller said of the document. “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.”
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