Mueller: Probe Did Not Exonerate Trump

“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Former FBI Director Robert Mueller said on Wednesday speaking publicly for the first time about his investigation. Mueller said he couldn't charge a sitting president because of a long-standing Justice Department rule and indicated that only Congress could "formally accuse the president of wrongdoing." (AP photo)

The Associated Press

Mueller: Special counsel probe did not exonerate Trump

WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller said Wednesday he was barred from charging President Donald Trump with a crime but pointedly emphasized that his Russia report did not exonerate the president. If he could have cleared Trump of obstruction of justice he “would have said so,” Mueller declared.

The special counsel’s remarks, his first in public since being tasked two years ago with investigating Russian interference to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election, stood as a strong rebuttal to Trump’s repeated claims that he was exonerated and that the inquiry was merely a “witch hunt.” They also marked a clear counter to criticism, including by Attorney General William Barr, that he should have reached a determination on whether the president illegally tried to obstruct the probe by taking actions such as firing his FBI director.

Mueller made clear he believed he was restrained from indicting a sitting president — such an action was “not an option” — because of a Justice Department legal opinion. He said it was Congress’ job to hold the president accountable for any wrongdoing.

“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.”

Mueller’s statement largely echoed the central points of his 448-page report released last month with some redactions. But his remarks, just under 10 minutes long and delivered from a Justice Department podium, were nonetheless extraordinary given that he had never before discussed or characterized his findings and had stayed mute during two years of feverish public speculation.

Mueller, a former FBI director, said his work was complete and he was resigning to return to private life. For his rare appearance, he wore a black suit, crisp white shirt and blue tie, walking briskly onto the stage gripping a folder containing prepared remarks that he largely adhered to.


Related:
Impeachment 101: How could Congress remove President Trump from office? (LA Times)

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