WASHINGTON: Robert Mueller said Wednesday his two-year Russia investigation had not exonerated Donald Trump, but that he had lacked the power to charge a sitting president—passing the baton to Congress where a growing chorus is clamoring for impeachment, reports AFP.
Making his first public statement on the high-stakes probe into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election, the special counsel said longstanding Justice Department guidelines prevented him from charging Trump, despite at least 10 possible acts of criminal obstruction by the president.But not indicting Trump was not equivalent to clearing him, Mueller said, suggesting Congress has both the constitutional powers and the responsibility to pursue the case.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” he said.
Mueller’s oblique allegation of serious wrongdoing sparked a new firestorm in Washington, with Trump again claiming vindication and a rising number of Democrats demanding to open impeachment proceedings.
“Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent,” the president tweeted minutes after Mueller finished speaking. “The case is closed! Thank you.”
But Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren was one of half a dozen White House hopefuls who seized upon Mueller’s remarks, to urge Congress to impeach Trump.
“Mueller leaves no doubt,” she tweeted. “The Constitution leaves it up to Congress to act—and that’s impeachment.”The taciturn Mueller took to the podium to clarify his original conclusions more than two months after a summary of his report was first released by the Justice Department. “Russian intelligence officers who were part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system,” forming the basis for the investigation, said the 74-year-old, long one of the most respected members of the Washington justice establishment.
Mueller’s 448-page report, finally released in redacted form on April 18, detailed multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, including efforts to take advantage of Moscow’s claimed possession of dirt on Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.