US Politics: Mueller’s Full Statement on the Trump-Russia Probe

Full text of Special Counsel Robert Mueller speaking  about his Russia investigation

Robert Mueller

Haaretz  

Two years ago, the Acting Attorney General asked me to serve as Special Counsel, and he created the Special Counsel’s Office. The appointment order directed the office to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. This included investigating any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign.

I have not spoken publicly during our investigation. I am speaking today because our investigation is complete. The Attorney General has made the report on our investigation largely public. And we are formally closing the Special Counsel’s Office. As well, I am resigning from the Department of Justice and returning to private life.              

I’ll make a few remarks about the results of our work. But beyond these few remarks, it is important that the office’s written work speak for itself.

Let me begin where the appointment order begins: And that is interference in the 2016 presidential election.

As alleged by the grand jury in an indictment, Russian intelligence officers who were part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system.

The indictment alleges that they used sophisticated cyber techniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information, and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization WikiLeaks. The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate.

And at the same time, as the grand jury alleged in a separate indictment, a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to interfere in the election.

These indictments contain allegations. And we are not commenting on the guilt or innocence of any specific defendant. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.

The indictments allege, and the other activities in our report describe, efforts to interfere in our political system. They needed to be investigated and understood. That is among the reasons why the Department of Justice established our office.

That is also a reason we investigated efforts to obstruct the investigation. The matters we investigated were of paramount importance. It was critical for us to obtain full and accurate information from every person we questioned. 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 wrongdoers accountable.

Let me say a word about the report. The report has two parts addressing the two main issues we were asked to investigate.

The first volume of the report details numerous efforts emanating from Russia to influence the election. This volume includes a discussion of the Trump campaign’s response to this activity, as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.

And in the second volume, the report describes the results and analysis of our obstruction of justice investigation involving the President.

The order appointing me Special Counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation and we kept the office of the Acting Attorney General apprised of the progress of our work.

As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.

We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the President did commit a crime. The introduction to volume two of our report explains that decision.

It explains that under long-standing Department policy, a President cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view — that too is prohibited.

The Special Counsel’s Office is part of the Department of Justice and, by regulation, it was bound by that Department policy. Charging the President with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.

The Department’s written opinion explaining the policy against charging a President makes several important points that further informed our handling of the obstruction investigation. Those points are summarized in our report. And I will describe two of them:

First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting President because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents are available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could now be charged.

And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.

And beyond Department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of an actual charge.

So that was the Justice Department policy and those were the principles under which we operated. From them 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.

We conducted an independent criminal investigation and reported the results to the Attorney General — as required by Department regulations.

The Attorney General then concluded that it was appropriate to provide our report to Congress and the American people.

At one point in time I requested that certain portions of the report be released. The Attorney General preferred to make the entire report public all at once. We appreciate that the Attorney General made the report largely public. I do not question the Attorney General’s good faith in that decision.

I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak about this matter. I am making that decision myself — no one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter.

There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself.

The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.

In addition, access to our underlying work product is being decided in a process that does not involve our office.

So beyond what I have said here today and what is contained in our written work, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress.

It is for that reason that I will not take questions here today.

Before I step away, I want to thank the attorneys, the FBI agents, the analysts, and the professional staff who helped us conduct this investigation in a fair and independent manner. These individuals, who spent nearly two years with the Special Counsel’s Office, were of the highest integrity.

I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments — that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American.

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On May 30, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    Trump Attacks Mueller Probe – Inadvertently Confirms Russia Helped Elect Him

    ‘And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected’

    Haaretz | Associated Press

    U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted an attack on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation on Thursday and admitted for the first time that Russia “HELPED ME TO GET ELECTED” — while denying any involvement.

    Trump tweeted: “Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax. … And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. It was a crime that didn’t exist. So now the Dems and their partner, the Fake News Media,…..”

    He continued in a second tweet: “….say he fought back against this phony crime that didn’t exist, this horrendous false accusation, and he shouldn’t fight back, he should just sit back and take it. Could this be Obstruction? No, Mueller didn’t find Obstruction either. Presidential Harassment!”

    Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax…And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. It was a crime that didn’t exist. …… Presidential Harassment!

    Trump, hours later, deleted the tweets and reposted them fixing typos.

    Trump has long contended that his 2016 presidential victory, which he often refers to as one of the greatest of all time, was in no way aided by the Russians.

    Trump on multiple occasions has falsely claimed that his 306-point electoral college win was the biggest since Ronald Reagan, despite former President Obama winning with 332 points in 2012.

    White House adviser Kellyanne Conway regularly uses a talking point that the allegation that Russia helped Trump win is an insult. “The idea that any of us, and me as a campaign manager, would cheat, steal, lie, cut corners, talk to Russians, was an insult from the beginning,” Conway said last month while talking to reporters.

    Trump told reporters Thursday as he departed the White House, “Russia didn’t help me at all.” He said Russia would have preferred that Hillary Clinton be elected, not him.

    Trump claimed, “Nobody has been tougher” on Russia “than me.”

    Mueller said that charging Trump with a crime was “not an option” because of federal rules, but he used his first public remarks on the Russia investigation to emphasize that he did not exonerate the president.

    “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller declared on Wednesday.

    The special counsel’s remarks stood as a pointed rebuttal to Trump’s repeated claims that he was cleared and that the two-year inquiry was merely a “witch hunt”.

    They also marked a counter to criticism, including by Attorney General William Barr, that Mueller should have reached a determination on whether the president illegally tried to obstruct the probe by taking actions such as firing his FBI director, James Comey.

    Mueller made clear that his team never considered indicting Trump because the Justice Department prohibits the prosecution of a sitting president.

    “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider,” Mueller said during a televised statement.

    He said he believed such an action would be unconstitutional.

    Mueller did not use the word “impeachment”, but said it was the job of Congress, not the criminal justice system, to hold the president accountable for any wrongdoing.

  • Clyde Duncan  On May 30, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    The foregoing may flow from Consciousness of Guilt

    Evidentiary rules allow a prosecutor to introduce testimony that tends to show that the defendant’s actions prove he knew he was guilty – at least of something.

    This is sometimes referred to as “consciousness of guilt”.

    For example, such evidence may include actions the defendant took to “cover up” his alleged crime. Flight, when unexplained, may indicate consciousness of guilt if the facts and the circumstances support it. A person’s false statements as to their whereabouts at the time of the offense may tend to show a consciousness of guilt.

  • Clyde Duncan  On May 31, 2019 at 1:31 am

    Robert De Niro: Robert Mueller, We Need to Hear More

    You said that your investigation’s work “speaks for itself.” It doesn’t.

    Robert De Niro | The New York Times

    Dear Mr. Mueller,

    It probably hasn’t escaped your attention – in my mind, nothing escapes your attention – that I play a version of you on “Saturday Night Live.” As “Robert Mueller,” my character is intimidating because he is so honest and upright. I do it for comic effect — that’s the intention anyway — but there’s also a lot of truth to it.

    To put it another way — it’s good-natured fun, but not entirely good-natured.

    There’s a level of satire, directed at the current administration. To be fair, not everyone appreciates the humor. The president has tweeted that there’s “nothing funny about tired ‘Saturday Night Live’” and that it’s “very unfair and should be looked into,” even “tested in courts,” and “this is the real collusion!”

    Though what or with whom the show would be colluding is unclear. But then I don’t have to tell you about problems with the term “collusion”. You barely mention the word in your report, and then only to explain why you’re not using it. That could be a punch line on “Saturday Night Live.”

    As I prepared for my role on the show, I got to know you a lot better. I read about your lifetime devotion to public service and your respect for the rule of law. I watched how you presided over the special counsel’s office apparently without leaks. And you never wavered, even in the face of regular vicious attacks from the president and his surrogates.

    While I and so many Americans have admired your quiet, confident, dignified response in ignoring that assault, it allowed the administration to use its own voice to control the narrative. And those voices are so loud and so persistent that they beat even reasonable people into submission. The loudest, most persistent voice belongs to the president himself, and under most circumstances, we want to believe our president.

    There’s a lot of speculation about the president being tone-deaf to facts, but there’s not much disagreement about the tone. Whether you take delight in it as his loyal supporters do or you’re the unfortunate target of his angry rhetoric, the hostile way he expresses himself registers with everyone.

    Nor is there much credible disagreement that the president treats lies, bullying and exaggerations as everyday weapons in his communication toolbox. These onslaughts of rhetoric aimed at his opposition mostly leave his antagonists sputtering in response, but I don’t think an in-kind response will be very effective either.

    Say what you will about the president — and I have — when it comes to that lying, bullying, exaggerating thing, no one can touch him. He has set up a world where it seems as if those disapproving of him can effectively challenge him only by becoming just like him. He’s bringing down the level of the entire playing field.

    And here, Mr. Mueller, is where you come in — where you need to come in. In your news conference, you said that your investigation’s work “speaks for itself.” It doesn’t.

    It may speak for itself to lawyers and lawmakers who have the patience and obligation to read through the more than 400 pages of carefully chosen words and nuanced conclusions with all due respect, as good a read as it is, you’re no Stephen King.

    You’ve characterized the report as your testimony, but you wouldn’t accept that reason from anyone your office interviewed. Additional information and illumination emerge from responses to questions. I know you’re as uncomfortable in the spotlight as the president is out of it. I know you don’t want to become part of the political spectacle surrounding Russia’s crimes and your report on them. I know you will, however reluctantly, testify before Congress if called, because you respect the system and follow the rules, and I understand why you’d want to do it away from the public glare.

    But the country needs to hear your voice. Your actual voice. And not just because you don’t want them to think that your actual voice sounds like Robert De Niro reading from cue cards, but because this is the report your country asked you to do, and now you must give it authority and clarity without, if I may use the term, obstruction.

    We’ve learned our lesson about what can happen to the perception of your work when interpreted in rabid tweets by the president, dissected by pundits all over the map, trumpeted in bizarre terms by the president’s absurd personal lawyer and distorted by the attorney general.

    And if, in fact, you have nothing further to say about the investigation, for your public testimony, you could just read from the report in response to questions from members of Congress. Your life has been a shining example of bravely and selflessly doing things for the good of our country. I urge you to leave your comfort zone and do that again.

    You are the voice of the Mueller report. Let the country hear that voice.

    With great respect,

    Robert De Niro

  • wally n  On May 31, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Conclusion…… PRESIDENT TRUMP still President. YOU an over the hill ACTOR! He will rebuild AMERICA, clean up the swamp. nastiness, crookedness left and still simmering, by the bunch of criminals [Democrats] YOU on the other hand will head off on that “Plane” to the Bahamas, oh those poor Haitian children.
    No one really cares about your opinion.

  • Clyde Duncan  On June 1, 2019 at 12:08 am

    Mueller’s Message:
    The Obstruction That Nearly Halted The Criminal Case Against Russians

    Ryan Goodman | Just Security

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s statement on Wednesday may reset the conversation about his investigation’s findings, and how Congress and the American public move forward from here.

    In deciding what points in the over 400-page document to highlight in under 10 minutes, Mueller gave Congress and the American public advice:

    Focus on two interlocking pieces.

    1. The Gravity of Russia’s Actions

    The Russian government, including through its military, engaged in a “concerted” and “systematic” attack on our political system.

    2. The Gravity of the Obstruction

    The President of the United States engaged in obstruction that “strikes at the core of the government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”

    Those two propositions do not have to do with evidence of collusion or conspiracy in the 2016 election, which is a separate matter and damning in its own right. The two propositions involve a fundamental national security concern for all Americans.

    In that respect, it is helpful to reflect back on significant data points in the timeline. According to the Mueller Report, two of the clearest and most egregious acts of obstruction occurred in mid-2017:

    ● June 2017: President Trump’s efforts to fire Mueller

    ● June 2017: President Trump’s efforts to curtail the investigation so that it would focus only on future election interference

    The president’s efforts to impede the investigation struck at the core of the government’s efforts. Consider the dates of two of the most important products of the investigation:

    ● February 2018: The Special Counsel’s Office secured an indictment of Russian individuals and organizations involved in the Kremlin’s social media influence operation.

    ● July 2018: The Special Counsel’s Office secured an indictment of Russia intelligence officers for the Kremlin’s hacking operation.

    Mueller ended his brief statement on Wednesday by saying, “I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments — that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

    EXACTLY. And had the president’s acts of criminal obstruction succeeded, the Special Counsel would not have been able to achieve the monumental success in understanding and charging the Russians for their wrongdoing.

    President Trump’s continued use of his office to mislead the American public about the Russian efforts is an ongoing abuse of power and violation of his solemn duties to the American people.

    Mueller has done his job. The rest is up to the American people and their political representatives.

  • Clyde Duncan  On June 1, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    What the Mueller Report Actually Said

    The special counsel pointed back to the words of his report. Here are its key findings.

    David Frum | The Atlantic

    Robert Mueller has advised Americans to go back and actually read his report if we want to understand what happened in 2016. “We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself,” he said on Wednesday morning, speaking publicly for the first time since his appointment.

    But the words of the report are damning.

    “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” Mueller wrote. This help “favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”

    The Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” and it “welcomed” this help.

    There is insufficient evidence to accuse the Trump campaign of criminal conspiracy with its Russian benefactors. However, “the social media campaign and the GRU hacking operations coincided with a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government.”

    These contacts were covered up by a series of lies, both to the special counsel and to Congress. Lying by the Trump campaign successfully obscured much of what happened in 2016. The special counsel in some cases “was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.”

    In particular, the investigation never did determine what happened to proprietary Trump-campaign polling data shared with the Russians.

    Within hours of the appointment of a special counsel to investigate 2016 events, Trump began defaming him. Trump had already fired the FBI director who investigated these events. His first order to fire the special counsel appointed in the director’s place was issued on June 17, 2017, a month after Mueller’s appointment. That order would be followed by many more.

    Trump directed his staff to lie about these orders.

    Over and above his efforts to fire the special counsel, “the President engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation.”

    The subversion of the investigation was brazen. “Many of the President’s acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, occurred in public view.”

    Obstruction of justice, though, need not be clandestine to count as a crime. What matters is intent — and that must be judged by Congress, not a special counsel subordinate to the Department of Justice and bound by its rule that a president cannot be indicted.

    The full report is rich with details. But that’s the essence. A foreign power interfered in the U.S. election to help the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign welcomed the help and repeatedly lied about it.

    The lying successfully obscured some questions the investigation sought to answer; in the end, it found insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.

    President Trump, in public and in private, worked to stop the investigation.

    Those are the facts. What are the remedies?

    Mueller underscored at his press statement:

    HE DID NOT EXONERATE THE PRESIDENT. Mueller asserted that he was subject to the rules of the Department of Justice and he lacked the power to act.

    Meanwhile, the Trump administration refuses to take steps to secure the next presidential election against the interference that swayed the last.

    The question of why Russia so strongly wished to help Trump remains as mysterious as ever. In particular, if you wish to understand the breadth and depth of Trump’s Russian business connections before he declared for president in 2015, Mueller’s report will not help you.

    Mueller says he can do no more. U.S. CONGRESS, the rest is up to you.

    • Emanuel  On June 1, 2019 at 3:30 pm

      Who gives a monkey’s behind about the laughing stock of the world. Give it up, Clyde!

  • Clyde Duncan  On July 6, 2019 at 10:58 am

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