′Not an option′ to charge president with crime, says special counsel Robert Mueller | News | DW | 29.05.2019
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'Not an option' to charge president with crime, says special counsel Robert Mueller

US special counsel Robert Mueller has said longstanding policy prohibited his office from indicting a sitting president. He did say there had been a systematic attempt to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.

Watch video 00:55

Charging Trump with crime 'not an option'

US special counsel Robert Mueller made his first, and likely last, statement on his team's report on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election Wednesday.

Read more: Opinion: We don't need the Mueller report

Mueller said that longstanding Department of Justice (DOJ) policy prohibited his office from indicting a sitting president.

"Charging the president with a crime was not an option we could consider," said Mueller. He also noted that his team refrained from making any criminal accusations out of a sense of fairness, suggesting that Congress would have to take any further steps.

Watch video 01:14

US Democrats in no mood to let case rest

Democrats call, again, for impeachment proceedings

Congressional Democrats were swift to note that Mueller's statement gave them a clear mandate to further investigate the president. Jerome Nadler, head of the House Judiciary Committee, said, "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."

Although Republicans urged opposition lawmakers to move on, Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris said, "What Robert Mueller basically did was return an impeachment referral." Harris added that Congress needed to act on "what we know is essentially indictable evidence."

Obstruction: 'A matter of paramount importance'

Mueller described the scope of his office's report and emphasized the necessity of the investigation. Referring to the 448-page report, Mueller said the issue of obstruction of justice was a "matter of paramount importance."

Minutes after Mueller delivered his statement Trump took to Twitter, announcing "The case is closed. Thank you."

Mueller, nevertheless, repeated his report's finding: "If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime."

Russian meddling 'deserves the attention of every American'

Mueller once again underscored the gravity of Russia's meddling, "by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments — that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election, and that allegation deserves the attention of every American." 

No further statements

Speaking alone at the DOJ, Mueller said: "It is important that the written report speaks for itself."

Mueller said he chose to address the public because his investigation was complete and the special counsel's office was being shut down. He also announced that he will retire from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to return to private life.

There has also been speculation that Mueller differed greatly with Attorney General William Barr, yet he made no mention of that. Instead, he thanked the attorney general for making the report public.

Watch video 02:18

US officials release redacted Mueller report

After thanking lawyers and investigators for operating with "the highest integrity," Mueller once again noted that the written report was his testimony and that he would not speak of the president or the report in the future.

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