Russia probe: Robert Mueller says charging Donald Trump was never an option

Mr. Mueller, breaking a two-year silence on his investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, announced his resignation from the Justice Department on May 29 so that he can “return to public life”.

Updated - May 30, 2019 12:56 am IST

Published - May 29, 2019 09:13 pm IST - WASHINGTON

Special Counsel Robert Mueller speaks on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, at the U.S. Justice Department in Washington on May 29, 2019.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller speaks on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, at the U.S. Justice Department in Washington on May 29, 2019.

Washington Special Counsel Robert Mueller has said that charging U.S. President Donald Trump for obstructing the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections was not an option for his team. Mr. Mueller also said that there were other ways to accuse the President of “wrongdoing”.

“...Under long-standing Department [of Justice] policy, a President cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional,” Mr. Mueller said. “Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited.”

“...The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing,” Mr. Mueller said, presumably referring to Congress which has the power to start impeachment proceeding against the President and the power — which it is currently exercising — to investigate the President’s activities.

No exoneration

Mr. Mueller also reiterated what the report concludes — that was not enough evidence to exonerate Mr. Trump. Yet the report, which was partially released in April, had detailed several instances of potential obstruction of justice. “And as set forth in the report, after that 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,” Mr. Mueller said.

These are Mr. Mueller’s first public remarks since his investigation began in 2016, and he said they were to be his last to the press on the subject. “Now, I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner. I am making that decision myself. No one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter,” Mr. Mueller said, adding that the scope of any testimony to Congress would not exceed what was presented in the report.

The U.S. House of Representatives has been attempting to get Mr. Mueller to testify but that has not happened yet. While Attorney General William Barr, who is Mr. Mueller’s boss, has said that he will not prevent Mr. Mueller from testifying, Mr. Trump has left the decision on whether to allow any testimony from Mr. Mueller to the Attorney General, although he has pushed back against the idea. “Why does he have to testify? That’s ridiculous.” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Mueller, who said he will retire shortly, ended his remarks with a reminder about the investigation’s findings that Russia had sought to interfere in the elections.

“And I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple, systemic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American,” Mr. Mueller said.

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