Robert Mueller appeared for less than fifteen minutes on Wednesday morning to give a statement that included the announcement that his office’s investigation was complete, that he was resigning from his position as special counsel, and that the special counsel office was to be closed. But Mueller did not restrict himself to providing a hat tip to his staff; he recapped his office’s report—and in the process emphasized the items that he thought were most important. In a way, this statement was Mueller’s own summary of the report.
Mueller opened his statement by making it clear that Russia had conducted two separate operations—the hacking and distribution of stolen materials, and a social media campaign—not just for the purpose of interfering in the election, but also “to interfere with a presidential candidate.”
When he moved on to discussing the report itself, Mueller critically did not use the word “collusion” or make any statement absolving Donald Trump or the Trump campaign, except to say that there was “insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.”
Then, moving on to obstruction, Mueller placed fresh emphasis on the actions that Trump took to interfere with the investigation. “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 elaborated on the fact that he could not consider charges against Trump entirely because of DOJ policy against charging a sitting executive. Because of that policy, he said, “we could not consider” charging Trump.
Mueller went out of his way to explain that the regulation prohibited him from indicting Trump, even if that indictment was not public or was under seal—which shows the lengths that the special counsel went in the search for a way to file an indictment. There would be no reason to mention any of this unless investigators had looked into the issues.
Mueller then made a special point of saying that the Constitution provides a way to deal with Trump’s crimes “outside the Department of Justice.” He may not have said the I-word, but he could not have shouted it any louder.
Mueller made absolutely clear in his statement that there was no exoneration in his report, not on either of the issues that were the core of the investigation.
The special counsel then made it clear that “the report is my testimony,” and that between the statement delivered on Wednesday and the contents of the report, neither the public nor Congress should expect to hear anything more from him than what has already been released. Instead, Mueller made his point by returning to information that is already in the report, but by pulling out the points that he wanted front and center. Mueller also emphasized that while he was forbidden from charging Trump, he could investigate Trump and preserve the evidence of his crimes while that evidence and memories of it were “fresh.”
In announcing that he was leaving, Mueller also went out of his way to praise the ability and integrity of his staff, who have been under almost daily assault from Trump.
Finally, Mueller closed by returning to the Russian interference at the heart of the investigation, insisting that there were “multiple systemic efforts” to interfere in our election, and that this “deserves the attention of every American.”
Mueller made it clear that:
- The purpose of the Russian effort was to harm Hillary Clinton.
- He could not indict “a broad conspiracy,” though there were hundreds of contacts.
- Trump conducted multiple, serious efforts to obstruct the investigation.
- He could not indict Trump entirely because of DOJ rules.
- The special counsel even looked at options to indict Trump in a nonpublic way.
- The Constitution provides a single way to deal with Trump’s crimes.
- All of this is important and deserves the attention of every American.
Considering that this was an announcement made while Mueller is still a DOJ employee, from a DOJ stage, with the advance knowledge of Trump and William Barr, this is a direct, precise, and powerful push back.
Mueller might not have been allowed to indict. But this was an indictment—and an absolute call for impeachment.
Mueller: "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. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime." https://t.co/gbjejBorhT pic.twitter.com/2Qa2IHkBHH
— ABC News (@ABC) May 29, 2019