Special counsel Robert Mueller broke his silence Wednesday to announce the official end of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I’m resigning from the Department of Justice to return to private life,” Mueller said, adding that his more-than-400-page report “speaks for itself”
Mueller spent most of his eight-minute speech repeating the main findings of his long-awaited report, which found that President Donald Trump’s campaign didn’t take criminal steps to help the Russians interfere with the election, but the campaign “expected” it would benefit from Russia’s efforts. Mueller also revealed why he declined to charge Trump for obstruction of justice.
“If we 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,” Mueller said, explaining that a president can’t be charged with a federal crime due to a long-standing Department of Justice policy.
“Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited,” Mueller added. “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider."
Still, Mueller didn’t downplay the importance of the special counsel’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice.
“When a subject of an investigation obstructs and investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government’s efforts to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable,” Mueller said.
Attorney General William Barr was in Alaska Wednesday for a Native justice meeting in Anchorage. Mueller sent Barr a letter in March complaining that his four-page memo summarizing the investigation, released ahead of the redacted report, “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the special counsel’s work.
Mueller also touched on calls from Democrats to have him testify in public before Congress. Mueller said no one in the Justice Department has told him whether he can or should testify — a subject of ongoing debate — but the special counsel said any testimony he might offer wouldn’t go beyond what he already included in his report.
“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,” Mueller said. "I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.
Here are some of the reactions to Mueller’s statement:
In a phone call to ABC News, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — an ally of Trump — said Mueller’s statement “definitely contradicts” what Barr said in his four-page memo summarizing Mueller’s report.
In his memo, Barr didn’t mention Justice Department guidelines as the reason Mueller didn’t make a determination on possible obstruction charges. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ultimately determined on their own that there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) avoided using the term “impeachment” in a statement following Mueller’s speech. Instead, Pelosi used the opportunity to reiterate her call for the House to continue its investigations into Trump.
“The Congress holds sacred its constitutional responsibility to investigate and hold the President accountable for his abuse of power,” Pelosi said. “The Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy. The American people must have the truth. "
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, called for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings in the aftermath of Mueller’s public statement. It was the first time the senator had publicly called for impeachment, though some of his 2020 rivals had previously done so.
In a tweet and White House statement, Trump and his administration contended that the Mueller report marked a closed case. On Twitter, the president contended that “nothing changes” and claimed there was “insufficient evidence,” ignoring the special counsel’s statements about Justice Department policy.
“After two years, the Special Counsel is moving on with his life, and everyone else should do the same,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
In response to Mueller’s comment that charging Trump with a crime was “not an option” due to Justice Department guidelines, Rep. Justin Amash (R., Mich.) wrote on Twitter, “The ball is in our court, Congress.”
Amash has been the only sitting Republican lawmaker to call for the impeachment of the president, claiming a full reading of Mueller’s report shows that Trump’s actions satisfy “all the elements of obstruction of justice.” He has also publicly criticized the attorney general, saying Barr deliberately misled the public about Mueller’s analysis and findings.
“President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct,” Amash previously wrote in a series of messages.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement following Mueller’s speech that it’s up to Congress to “respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump,” but stopped short of calling for impeachment hearings.