Robert Mueller announced his resignation from the office of special counsel Wednesday, explaining why he did not accuse President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice and saying he will not speak further about the investigation since his full report has been released.
"The report is my testimony," he said. "I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress."
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He said he appreciated Attorney General Bill Barr's decision to make the report largely public, which was not required under statute, adding he did not doubt Barr's good faith in his decision to release the report all at once, even though he'd recommended releasing "certain portions" beforehand. He threw cold water on calls that he should go further than the report does in judging Trump's actions related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
"I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner. I am making that decision myself. No one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter," he said. "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."
After explaining the principles of how the investigation went forward, including the necessity of following Justice Department policy not to decide whether to recommend prosecution of the president, he said he would not comment on hypotheticals or offer commentary.
"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," he said. "We conducted an independent criminal investigation and reported the results to the attorney general, as required by department regulations."
Many have asserted that, hypothetically, if Trump were not the president, he would be convicted of obstruction of justice, even though evidence of a conspiracy was not found. Mueller expressed no interest in engaging those hypothetical discussions, since Trump would not have an opportunity to defend himself in court.
"It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge," he said, reiterating what he wrote in his report.
He also said he is not involved in the process for making the underlying evidence public.
"Access to our underlying work product is being decided in a process that does not involve our office. So beyond what I've 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," he said. "And it's for that reason I will not be taking questions today, as well."
He concluded by thanking "the attorneys, the FBI agents, the analysts, the professional staff who helped us conduct this investigation in a fair and independent manner."