Mueller: “It Is Important the Office’s Written Work Speaks for Itself”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller III said at a press conference on Wednesday that it “is important the office’s written work speaks for itself,” appeared to contradict that report and tossed to Congress. The presser, which was his first public statement since the appointment, was highly unusual in that he did not take questions.
“We are formally closing the special counsel’s office and I am resigning from the Department of Justice and returning to private life,” he said. “It is important the office’s written work speaks for itself.”
Mueller noted the report had two parts, the first addressing the question of collusion between Russia and members of the Trump Campaign.
“This volume includes a discussion of the Trump campaign’s response to this activity, as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy,” he said, refusing to characterize those findings as an exoneration.
That statement made at the press conference contradicts the written report.
The Special Counsel employed 19 lawyers assisted by a team of roughly 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The team issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.
On the allegation of a conspiracy to “collude” with Russia, the report reads as follows:
[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
On obstruction of justice, Mueller sought to contradict Attorney General William Barr, who in Alaska was made aware of the statement and its content. He also stated no determination was made by his office because of the opinion by the Office of Legal Counsel.
It holds a sitting President cannot be indicted.
“We did not however make a determination as to whether the president committed a crime,” he said. “Under longstanding policy, the president cannot be charged with a crime while in office.”
In a meeting on March 5, Special Counsel Mueller told Attorney General Barr that the OLC opinion had no weight on the decision not to charge President Donald Trump with obstruction of justice. But Mueller contradicted that account, as well.
“The special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice, and as such, we were bound by that regulation,” Mueller added. “Charging the president with a crime was not an option.”
“It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no trial.”
Attorney General Barr and now-former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein held a press conference in April detailing the findings and the determination on obstruction. The nation’s top two cops put aside the OLC opinion to make that determination, which was Mueller’s decision to make.
In his 4-page letter, Attorney General Barr wrote that Special Counsel Mueller “recognized” the lack of evidence President Trump was involved in a conspiracy undercuts any obstruction case. The statute requires a corrupt intent.
As respected legal experts on both sides of the aisle told PPD at the time the issue was raised, obstruction would require proving a corrupt intent on the part of the president.
Mueller ended his statement by declaring he would not speak on this again. House Democrats could issue a subpoena, which is expected.
“I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak about this matter,” he said. “Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report.
“It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself.”
President Trump responded on Twitter, saying “in our Country” a “person is innocent” when there’s “insufficient evidence.”
The White House released an official response following the press conference, stating the “Special Counsel is moving on with his life, and everyone else should do the same.”
The Special Counsel has completed the investigation, closed his office, and has closed the case. Mr. Mueller explicitly said that he has nothing to add beyond the report, and therefore, does not plan to testify before Congress. The report was clear—there was no collusion, no conspiracy—and the Department of Justice confirmed there was no obstruction. Special Counsel Mueller also stated that Attorney General Barr acted in good faith in his handling of the report.
Worth noting, Attorney General Barr recently appointed U.S. Attorney John H. Durham in Connecticut to investigate the origins of and potential wrongdoings in the Russia probe. That investigation will center on and around Mueller’s protégé and friend, James Comey.
President Trump last week also issued a directive authorizing the attorney general to declassify and release documents expected to be damning to those behind the probe.
U.S. Attorney Durham, the 52nd U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, has a long history of serving as a special prosecutor and investigating the wrongdoings of national security officials. That includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Justice Department (DOJ).
President Trump and Republican lawmakers have long called for the investigation. The entire upper echelon of the FBI and DOJ have been removed, either by firing, prosecution or resignation.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz has also been investigating the Obama Administration’s conduct relating to the genesis of the probe. He referred former and now-fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe to the U.S. Attorney in D.C. for criminal prosecution.
Mr. Horowitz said in his testimony before Congress in June 2018 that he was even more concerned by the preliminary findings in the review of the department’s handling of the Russia investigation.