Robert Mueller breaks silence, does not want to testify, says charging Trump ‘not an option’
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday broke more than two years of silence about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice, saying he does not intend to testify to Congress and explaining why he did not have the “option” of charging the president with a crime.
Mueller spoke amid demands by congressional Democrats that he testify in public.
He said he would make “a few remarks” but that it was “important that the office’s written work speak for itself.”
“The report is my testimony,” Mueller said.
The special counsel said he was speaking out because his “investigation is complete,” his office is “formally closing” and that he is “resigning from the Department of Justice to return to private life.”
“The matters we investigated were of paramount importance,” Mueller said. “When the subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators it strikes at the government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”
With regard to why he did not make a decision about whether the president obstructed justice, Mueller said charging the president with a crime was “not an option we could consider” because of Justice Department policy.
But he added: “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so.”
“Beyond department policy we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge,” the special counsel said. “That is the office’s final position and we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the president.”
However, Mueller also made clear that the “Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,” suggesting that such a decision should be left in the hands of the Congress through impeachment proceedings.
Trump tweeted, “The case is closed!” shortly after Mueller spoke.
But a key congressional Democrat said the matter was far from over.
“Given that Special Counsel Mueller was unable to pursue criminal charges against the President, it falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump – and we will do so. No one, not even the President of the United States, is above the law,” House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
Until now, Mueller has remained silent through the course of his investigation, through the release of his final report on April 18.
The White House was given a heads up that Mueller would be making a statement, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News. However, the sources said the White House was not given any sense as to what he would say.
Mueller’s statement came amid speculation about whether he would agree to publicly testify before Congress about the results of his investigation, and the handling of his findings on potential obstruction of justice by President Trump.
Trump said Friday that he sees no need for Mueller to testify, calling it “ridiculous,” but has said he would leave the decision up to Attorney General William Barr. Barr has told Congress he has no objection to Mueller testifying.
“Now, I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this matter,” Mueller said in his statement. “I am making that decision myself, no one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter. There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report.”
Sources close to Mueller have told ABC News that he is apprehensive about being made into a political football by members of either party, and that his team has proposed a public statement to the House Judiciary Committee followed by private questioning. It’s unclear whether such a proposal would be accepted by the committee.
Barr, who has faced criticism for his handling of Mueller’s report and public statements appearing to defend President Trump, is currently on official travel in Alaska.
Barr was also given a heads up on Mueller’s intention to deliver a statement, a source told ABC News. The source would not say when the heads up was given, or whether Barr is aware of the content of what Mueller will say.
While Barr has repeatedly said he has no problem with Mueller testifying publicly about his findings, Trump in recent days has accused Democrats of wanting a “re-do” of his investigation and using his testimony to fuel calls for Trump’s impeachment.
I don’t know why the Radical Left Democrats want Bob Mueller to testify when he just issued a 40 Million Dollar Report that states, loud & clear & for all to hear, No Collusion and No Obstruction (how do you Obstruct a NO crime?) Dems are just looking for trouble and a Do-Over!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2019
Muller has been eager to avoid the politics swirling around his investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia’s 2016 influence efforts and doesn’t want to testify publicly on Capitol Hill about his findings, Nadler said last week.
“He doesn’t want to be public in what some people will regard as a political spectacle, I think,” Nadler said in an interview with MSNBC, confirming reports from ABC News and other outlets about House Democrats pushing back on DOJ’s offer for limited Mueller testimony.
Nadler said, “we will subpoena him if we have to” in a May 8 interview on CNN.
Mueller’s 448-page final report detailed the special counsel’s 22-month long investigation into allegations that the president’s campaign had colluded with Russia. The report said that “the investigation did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Mueller declined to make a traditional prosecutorial decision on whether the president had obstructed justice.
By the conclusion of the investigation, Mueller had indicted 34 people and three Russian businesses, levied charges against six Trump associates and elicited seven guilty pleas.
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