Special counsel Robert Mueller issued his first public statement on his investigation into Russian interference of the 2016 election, emphasizing one of the key points of his report — that his office did not conclude whether or not President Trump committed a crime — but, mainly because it did not have the constitutional authority to do so.
In his statement, Mueller said his office could not bring criminal charges against the president because they believed it to be unconstitutional.
“If we had confidence that the president had clearly not committed a crime we would have said so,” said Mueller, adding however, that “Charging the president with a crime is not an option we could consider.”
Mueller, spoke from the Justice Department Wednesday morning. While he again said his report did not completely exonerate the president, he emphasized the contention that there “was not sufficient evidence to charge a conspiracy” over whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election.
But Mueller did not mince words on the question of obstruction of justice. “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said. “We did not determine whether the president did commit a crime.”
Mueller explained that his rationale was due to a longstanding Justice Department policy, which states that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.
Charging the President Was Not an Option
“Charging the president with a crime was not an option we could consider,” Mueller explained, adding that “it would be unfair to accuse someone of a crime when there could be no court resolution of the charge.”
“The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse the president of wrongdoing,” Mueller said in his statement, echoing his report which states that Congress “may apply obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of his office in accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.” Mueller added, “We concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime. That is the office’s final position.”
Mueller then officially announced that he would be resigning from the Department of Justice and returning to private life. He said this was his final statement on the matter, and any testimony he might give to Congress would not go beyond what was in the report.
He took no questions from the press.