Update 3: As most observers probably expected, Congressional Democrats are already embracing Mueller’s decision to throw down the gauntlet. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, and a host of others chimed in, saying Mueller had made it clear that Trump was not exonerated, and that it was time for Congress to act to hold him accountable.
Democrats are predictably throwing a fit on Twitter, demanding that the House move to impeach Trump yesterday.
All of Lefty Twitter right now… pic.twitter.com/FAOnvtJ685
— GrrrGraphics Cartoons (@GrrrGraphics) May 29, 2019
Nadler released a statement insisting that, since Mueller couldn’t act, it “falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump.”
Waters said Mueller made it clear that Trump wasn’t exonerated by the report.
Mueller made clear Trump is NOT exonerated and that AG Barr is a liar. Mueller did his job now it's time for Congress to do its job. No more hiding behind the special counsel. Enough is enough. It's time to #ImpeachTrump. We can't wait for 2020. The time is NOW!
— Maxine Waters (@RepMaxineWaters) May 29, 2019
Among presidential contenders, Cory Booker tweeted that Congress must now move to impeach.
Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear: Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) May 29, 2019
I’ve been asking for Mueller’s testimony—today he made his views clear.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) May 29, 2019
Meanwhile, President Trump chimed in to insist that “nothing changes” from the Mueller report and that there was “insufficient evidence…case closed.”
Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2019
Though Mueller appeared to crush the White House narrative, it’s important to remember that while Mueller was preventing from directly charging the president, he could have more strongly claimed that Trump was guilty of obstruction, like Ken Starr did to Clinton in his final report.
Let the games begin.
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Update 2: Here are a few key takeaways from Mueller’s statement, text courtesy of BBG:
- Mueller is resigning, formally shutting down his office and returning to private life.
- He said he would not tell Congress anything beyond what the Department of Justice has made public in his report. He said he has no intention of speaking publicly again.
- He reiterated that he was bound by DOJ regulations against charging the president with a crime, and therefore did not decide whether he committed a crime. He noted that the Constitution has another way to address the conduct of presidents other than criminal charges.
- He reiterated that there was a sweeping and systematic effort by Russians to interfere in the U.S. Election in 2016, which he said “deserves the attention of every American.”
- Expect House Democrats to still insist on Mueller’s testimony. Among other things, they’ll want to ask him about his disagreement with how Attorney General William Barr originally presented his report.
Also, Mueller’s ‘spin’ laid bare:
Here essentially is Mueller's spin job: "Russians hacked Hillary & I didn't find Trump didn't collude with them, I just came up short on proof, and I never said he didn't obstruct my probe, just that I wasn't allowed to charge it. However,Congress can charge him thru impeachment"
— Paul Sperry (@paulsperry_) May 29, 2019
Update: Mueller started his statement by affirming that he would be resigning and closing the special counsel’s office.
“It’s important that the office’s written work speak for itself,” he said.
But the bigger takeaway: After recounting the circumstances of Russia’s interference in the vote, the special counsel said charging President Trump “was never an option” during the investigation.
The indictments allege and describe efforts to interfere in our political system that need to be investigated and understood. That is also a reason we decided to investigate efforts to obstruct the investigation.
“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 that individual accountable.”
Mueller reiterated that the investigation didn’t turn up sufficient evidence to bring charges relating to a broader conspiracy. He also said he wouldn’t be going into any ‘hypotheticals’ about the president.
“We concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime.”
“That is the office’s final position and we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the president.”
Seeming to respond to criticisms that the obstruction probe was outside the scope of his investigation, Mueller said his position had authorized him to investigate obstruction of justice, and “if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so” but Mueller said it wouldn’t be fair to charge Trump with a crime since he would never be able to stand trial.
“It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can by no court resolution of a charge.”
In a statement that will likely send Jerry Nadler into paroxysms of rage, Mueller appeared to affirm that he wouldn’t be testifying before Congress, saying that the report should be considered his testimony, and that he wouldn’t be saying anything beyond what’s contained in the report to Congress or anyone else.
“I will not provide information beyond what is already public before Congress…the report is my testimony…I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to speak further.”
In other words – as one Twitter wit commented – Mueller’s statement could be summarized as: “Read the report, guys – I’m out”. His statement also vindicated AG Barr’s handling of the report, as Mueller reportedly wanted more of the evidence to be redacted, while Barr insisted on more transparency.
Notably, Mueller used his statement to reiterate that Russians carried out an interference campaign during the 2016 vote. In one ominous statement that Democrats are bound to seize on, Mueller said “if we had the confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
By the sound of it, Mueller is crushing the White House narrative and leaving Congressional Democrats enough wiggle room to pursue their goal of impeachment – whatever the political ramifications may be.
* * *
For the first time since he was appointed in May 2017 to lead the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election, Special Counsel will make a public statement about the investigation that infamously ended earlier this year without finding evidence of collusion while declining to make a finding on obstruction.
The redacted 448-page Mueller report was released last month, prompting the Trump Administration to proclaim that it had been vindicated by the special counsel. Democrats in Congress are now toying with the idea of trying to impeach Trump based on some of Mueller’s findings.
The statement is set for 11 am ET at the DoJ, and won’t be followed by a Q&A.
Notably, the statement comes one day after the Guardian published excerpts from Michael Wolff’s upcoming book claiming that Mueller had written up a three-count indictment of Trump on obstruction charges, but ultimately decided not to pursue it.
The statement also comes as Congressional Democrats have tried and – so far, at least – failed to entice Mueller to testify publicly before a House Committee about the investigation. The House Judiciary Committee has been trying to obtain the unredacted Mueller report and the underlying documents, again, with little success.
There have also been reports of tension between Mueller and AG William Barr: Mueller and his team reportedly sent Barr a letter after the latter released a summary of the Mueller report’s findings claiming that the summary risked undermining public confidence in the probe, in addition to being misleading. Last week, Trump delegated extraordinary powers to Barr to investigate the provenance of the Russia Probe.
Mueller has been infamously tight-lipped since the investigation began: In fact, the closest he has come to making a public statement was telling MSNBC to piss off after reporters ambushed Mueller and his wife after an Easter Mass, which occurred a few days after the Mueller report’s release disappointed Russiagate conspiracy theorists.
A spokesman for the special counsel insisted that such an indictment never existed, even as Wolff and the Guardian claimed to have seen the document.
A person familiar with the matter said Mueller will deliver a “substantial” statement, but declined to provide more details. The person said the statement is not a response to reporting about Michael Wolff’s soon-to-be-released book on the Trump administration, “Siege.”
ABC reports that the statement will last between 8 and 9 minutes.
Both the Dems and President Trump must be on edge here, since nobody knows what Mueller is going to say. Though CNBC’s Eamon Javers reports that the White House knew the statement was coming: “We were advised he may make a statement,” a senior official said. It’s unclear whether the Judiciary Committee was alerted to the statement ahead of time.
Notably, AG Barr is in Alaska right now, the AP reports.
Watch Mueller’s statement live below: