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U.S. Special Counsel Mueller Says Charging Trump With A Crime 'Was Not An Option'


U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after delivering a statement on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election at the Justice Department in Washington on May 29.

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has said that charging President Donald Trump with a crime "was not an option" as he spoke for the first time since the conclusion of his two-year investigation into Russian election interference.

Speaking at the Justice Department on May 29, Mueller said that if he was called to speak before Congress, he would not provide any information beyond what is contained in his report, which was published last month.

Mueller's comments come amid multiple ongoing investigations by congressional Democrats into aspects of Mueller's findings, as well as Trump's business and financial dealings. It also comes with mounting calls among Democrats to begin impeachment hearings against Trump.

In his comments, Mueller reiterated one of the core conclusions of his report -- that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election campaign.

"There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election and that allegation deserves the attention of every American," he said.

Mueller's report also addressed the question about whether Trump or others sought to obstruct Mueller's inquiry -- which would potentially be a federal crime.

In a tweet, Trump, who has wrongly claimed that Mueller's conclusions completely exonerated him, again said he was innocent.

"Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed," he wrote.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders also released a statement that focused on the Russian interference findings of the report, but omitted mention of the report's other, more ambiguous findings about whether Trump or associates tried to obstruct Mueller's probe.

"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," she said.

"After two years, the special counsel is moving on with his life, and everyone else should do the same," Sanders said.

In his remarks, Mueller repeated Justice Department guidelines, which say that a sitting U.S. president cannot be charged with a crime.

Charging Trump "was not an option we could have considered," he said.

But Mueller also repeated the report's second core finding: if he and his investigators had had confidence that Trump clearly did not commit a crime, they would have stated that in the report.

"If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so," Mueller said. "We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime."

Many Trump critics have seized on that finding, as reason to begin impeachment hearings.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic chairman of one of the main House committees investigating aspects of the Mueller investigation, has been in talks with Mueller to have him appear before the committee.

Following Mueller's remarks, he said it was now up to Congress to "respond to the crimes, lies, and other wrongdoing" by Trump.

"Given that Special Counsel Mueller was unable to pursue criminal charges against the President, it falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies, and other wrongdoing of President Trump -- and we will do so. No one, not even the President of the United States, is above the law," Nadler said in a statement.

Mueller addressed the possibility of his appearing before Congress.

"Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report," he said. "It contains our findings, an analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress."

The current speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, has resisted calls to approve the beginning of impeachment hearings, citing, among other things, the fact that Trump will be seeking a second term in office in the 2020 election.

Some Democrats fear that moving to impeach Trump will only make him more popular among Republicans.

Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Republican-controlled Senate, called for U.S. lawmakers to do more to prevent future Russian interference in U.S. elections.

"It is clear as a bell -- whatever side you are on politically -- that Russia interfered. It is also clear as a bell, if we sit here and do nothing, it is going to be worse in 2020. Faith in democracy will erode and that is very bad for America," Schumer said.

"This report is a wake-up call. We must get right on the horse and do everything we can to stop Russia from interfering in the 2020 election," he said.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent in Prague, where he reports on developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and money laundering. Before joining RFE/RL in 2015, he worked for the Associated Press in Moscow. He has also reported and edited for The Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera America, Voice of America, and the Vladivostok News.

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    Todd Prince

    Todd Prince is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL based in Washington, D.C. He lived in Russia from 1999 to 2016, working as a reporter for Bloomberg News and an investment adviser for Merrill Lynch. He has traveled extensively around Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia.