UPDATE: Rep. Diana DeGette responds:
Mueller just said: DOJ rules prohibit him from saying that the president committed a crime – but, if the president HAD NOT COMMITTED A CRIME, HE WOULD SAY SO!
He said only Congress can hold the president accountable. That’s why we need to begin our impeachment inquiry NOW.
— Rep. Diana DeGette (@RepDianaDeGette) May 29, 2019
Special counsel Robert Mueller today offered his first public comments on his investigation into President Trump and his campaign for President in 2016. Mueller declined to get into many specifics about the work of the special counsel’s office, but what he did not say may be more consequential than anything else, as the New York Times reports:
[Mueller] declined to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice in his first public characterization of his two-year-long investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mr. Mueller said, reading from prepared notes behind a lectern at the Justice Department. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.” [Pols emphasis]
Mueller did not take questions from reporters at an event in which he also announced that he is closing his office and resigning from the Justice Department to return to a private life. But before he finished speaking, Mueller offered some not-so-subtle suggestions about what happens next:
He also said that while Justice Department policy prohibits charging a sitting president with a crime, the Constitution provides for another process to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing — a clear reference to the ability of Congress to begin impeachment proceedings. [Pols emphasis]
Although his remarks closely matched statements contained in his nearly 400-page report, Mr. Mueller’s portrayal of Mr. Trump’s actions was not as benign as Attorney General William P. Barr’s characterizations. While Mr. Barr has seemed to question why the special counsel investigated the president’s behavior, Mr. Mueller stressed the gravity of that inquiry.
“When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable,” he said. [Pols emphasis]
Mr. Mueller also stressed that the evidence his team uncovered of Russia’s effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election was a threat to the nation’s political system and “deserves the attention of every American.”
We’ll have more on this story as it develops.