Special Counsel Robert Mueller said that he was resigning from the Department of Justice and returning to private life.
Speaking from a written statement to reporters from the department’s headquarters in Washington on May 29, Mueller briefly highlighted some of the key takeaways from his team’s report before saying he hoped to never again speak of it in public.
“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,” he said.
Mueller during his statement tried clarifying some things about the report, noting that his team charged several groups of Russians with interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller used different wording when describing the findings of no conspiracy or cooperation between Russian actors and the Trump campaign. In the report, the team said it “did not establish” such collusion. Mueller said on Wednesday that “there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.”
It wasn’t clear why Mueller’s wording changed.
Attorney General William Barr said in mid-April that the report clearly “did not find any evidence that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with the campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its hacking operations.”
“In other words, there was no evidence of Trump campaign ‘collusion’ with the Russian government’s hacking,” he added.
Mueller on Wednesday also defended the probe into possible obstruction by the president, saying his team’s investigation was “of paramount importance” and that anyone who tries to obstruct an investigation “strikes at the core of the government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”
At the same time, Mueller struggled to explain why his team had not made a traditional prosecutorial decision, claiming that it didn’t have an option to charge the president with a crime even if it had found sufficient evidence.
“We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the President did commit a crime. The introduction to volume two of our report explains that decision. It explains that under long-standing 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,” he said.
“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. It would be unfair to charge someone with a crime when there could be no court resolution of the charge.”
Mueller’s team examined 10 instances it said may have constituted obstruction and presented the findings to Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Barr said earlier this year that he and Rosenstein examined the evidence and concluded there was not a case for obstruction of justice.
“Although the deputy attorney general and I disagreed with some of the special counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law, we did not rely solely on that in making our decision. Instead, we accepted the special counsel’s legal framework for purposes of our analysis and evaluated the evidence as presented by the special counsel in reaching our conclusion,” Barr stated.
“In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.”
Barr went into more detail, noting that Trump “was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.”
“Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims,” he said. “And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.”
He has previously said that there was certainly spying on the campaign.
“I think spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur. But the question is whether it was predicated, adequately predicated,” Barr said on April 10.
Barr added on May 17 that “some of the explanations of what occurred” haven’t added up.
“People have to find out what the government was doing during that period. If we’re worried about foreign influence, for the very same reason we should be worried about whether government officials abuse their power and put their thumb on the scale,” Barr told Fox News. “I’m not saying that happened but it’s something we have to look at.”
The White House communications department held a meeting and a brief call just before Mueller spoke. Press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president was monitoring the Mueller situation but that he wasn’t commenting on where he was on Wednesday.
She said that Trump was aware that Mueller was going to speak. A senior White House official said earlier that the White House was notified on Tuesday night about Mueller speaking publicly.
Sanders declined to comment when asked if Trump would speak publicly following Mueller’s remarks.
Mueller concluded his 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election in March. Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of Mueller’s 400-plus-page report on April 18.
The special counsel concluded there is not enough evidence to establish that President Donald Trump or anyone on the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Mueller also had decided against charging the president with obstruction of justice. Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reviewed the report and determine there was not enough evidence to bring an obstruction charge in a court of law.
Mueller’s announcement came one day after the special counsel’s office denied a claim in an upcoming book that Mueller had drawn up an indictment charging the president with obstruction of justice. “The documents that you’ve described do not exist,” a spokesman for Mueller’s office said.
Epoch Times reporter Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.