On May 29, Special Counsel Robert Mueller gave his first public statement regarding the findings of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Now that Robert Mueller himself has spoken to the public about the investigation’s findings, little can be left to speculation as to what Mueller and his team discovered, or what they concluded.
Mueller started his ten-minute address with the reminder about why he was appointed: “The Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system…They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization WikiLeaks. The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate.”
Mueller cited the difficulty that the Justice Department had at times with obtaining information from those who were questioned during the investigation.
“It was critical for us to obtain full and accurate information from every person we questioned. When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”
Robert Mueller stopped short of saying explicitly that Donald Trump was guilty of obstruction of justice.
In the case of Mueller’s report on the investigation, which was released on April 18, 2019, Attorney General William Barr chose to interpret the findings as indicating that there was no basis for charging Trump with obstruction of justice.
Mueller did not, however, state that his team had found no basis for charging Trump. What Mueller said was that they “did not make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
Some Trump supporters pounced on “did not make a determination” as a declaration of Trump’s innocence.
But in his address, Robert Mueller said, “The order appointing me Special Counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. … 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.”
Mueller went on to explain why he didn’t go further. It was not because the Justice Department had found no evidence of wrongdoing.
“Under longstanding department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited. The special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”
As one legal expert, Jessica Levinson, law professor at Loyola Law school said, “If we were talking about Mr. Trump, not President Trump, we’d be talking about an indictment for obstruction of justice.”
Robert Mueller is leaving it up to Congress to enforce the obstruction of justice statute regarding Trump and his efforts to impede the Russia investigation.
WATCH: Robert Mueller makes 1st public statement on Russia probe |
PBS NewsHour [2019-05-29]
Trump reacts to Mueller’s Russia probe statement in angry tirade |
Fox News [2019-05-30]