Special counsel Robert Mueller broke more than two years of silence on Wednesday about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice. Mueller said he does not intend to testify to Congress or say any more publicly about the matter.
His announcement came amid demands from congressional Democrats that he testify in public. He said he would make "a few remarks," but that it was "important that the office's written work speak for itself."
"The report is my testimony," Mueller said.
He said he was speaking out because his "investigation is completed," that his office is "formally closing" and that he is "resigning from the Department of Justice to return to private life."
"The matters we investigated were of paramount importance," Mueller said. "When the subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators it strikes at the government's effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable."
He said charging the president with a crime was "not an option we could consider." He also refused to clear the president, saying, "if we had confidence the president did not commit a crime, we would have said so."
Reading from notes, he also stressed that Russia’s systematic effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election “deserves the attention of every American.”
Until now, Mueller had remained silent throughout the course of the investigation and through the release of his final report on April 18.
The White House was notified late Tuesday that Mueller would be making a statement, a senior White House official said. Attorney General William P. Barr was in Alaska meeting with tribal leaders and federal and local officials.
Mueller objected to the portrayal of the special counsel's findings provided by Barr — in particular, he disputed Barr's previous characterization that the report's conclusions cleared Trump from charges of obstruction of justice. Mueller detailed 11 instances in the report in which prosecutors investigated whether the president was deliberately trying to obstruct the investigation.
“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mueller and his investigators wrote. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
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