MUELLER: 'If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesThe special counsel Robert Mueller makes a statement about the Russia investigation on May 29, 2019.
  • The former special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday in his first public statement on the Russia investigation said if he had determined President Donald Trump didn’t commit a crime he “would have said so.”
  • “If we had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said.
  • Mueller also said he was legally unable to charge the president with a crime, emphasising it’s against Justice Department policy and describing it as “unconstitutional.”
  • Mueller announced he’s resigning from the Justice Department and closing the special counsel’s office.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The former special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday – in his first public, televised statement regarding the investigation he led into Russian election interference – said if he’d determined President Donald Trump didn’t commit a crime of obstruction, he “would have said so.”

“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,” Mueller said. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”

The special counsel’s report outlined 11 possible instances of obstruction by Trump but declined to make a conclusion on whether the president committed a crime.

Mueller’s comments on Wednesday echoed his report, which said, “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. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

‘Charging the president with a crime was … not an option we could consider’

The special counsel on Wednesday also said he was legally unable to charge the president with a crime – emphasising it’s against Justice Department policy – and that his report explained that decision.

“Under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional,” Mueller said. “Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited.”

Mueller added, “The 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.”

Mueller also laid out two other reasons why he didn’t come to a conclusion on whether or not he could charge Trump with a crime.

The first is that if he’d suggested Trump obstructed justice without charging him with it, it would have deprived Trump of an opportunity to defend himself as he normally could in a court of law.

The second is that even if prosecutors had filed a sealed indictment against Trump, there was a chance of the document leaking. And filing an indictment in the first place, Mueller added, would also have been against department policy.

In all, Mueller said, charging Trump would have been “unconstitutional.”

Trump says the ‘case is closed’ as Mueller signals he doesn’t wish to testify before Congress

Trump, who’s often referred to the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt,” has continuously maintained there was “no collusion” with Russia and “no obstruction.”

After Mueller’s statement, Trump tweeted, “Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.”


Read more:
Mueller says he’s resigning from the Justice Department and officially closing the Russia investigation

House Democrats have been pushing for Mueller to testify on his investigation and report as the Trump administration stonewalls the slew of inquiries they have launched into the president.

But Mueller on Wednesday signalled he does not wish to testify before Congress.

“Beyond what I have 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,” Mueller said.

But he did imply that the ball is now in Congress’ court about what to do next.

“I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interference in our election,” Mueller said as he wrapped up his statement on Wednesday. “That allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

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