In First Public Statement, Mueller Declines To Exonerate Trump

On May 29, 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller made his first public statement since his appointment in May of 2017, reaffirming his conclusion that the Russian government had repeatedly attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election while declining to exonerate President Donald Trump. With this public statement, which followed the March 2019 release of his office’s conclusions, widely known as “the Mueller report,” the Special Counsel retired to private life.

 

A Review Of The Mueller Investigation

 

Just over two years ago, Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein hired Robert S. Mueller III, a former Marine, United States Attorney, and FBI Director, to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Over the next two years, Mueller made 37 indictments, including six former advisers of Donald Trump, 26 Russian nationals, three companies based in Russia, a California resident and a lawyer based in London. 

 

Many of the indictments of US citizens were for perjury, while others, like those of former Trump associates Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, were wide-ranging, alleging dozens of legal violations. The charges on the Russian side included hacking Democrats’ emails and conspiracy charges, including identity theft. Only Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate Konstantin Kilimnik were charged with obstruction of justice. Seven of the 37 parties charged, including Trump associates Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, pled guilty or struck plea deals with the Department of Justice. Paul Manafort was convicted by a jury in August and pled guilty to additional counts in September. The rest have been presumed innocent until proven guilty.

 

On March 22, Mueller concluded his investigation and filed a 448 page, two volume report of his findings with the Office of the Attorney General. The report is publicly available in its redacted form on the Justice Department website.

 

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Mueller did not allege any crimes on the part of President Trump, but declared that “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” He also reiterated that Justice Department rules, which have been in place since before Trump’s election, do not allow a sitting president to be charged with a crime. Instead, he said, it was Congress’s job to keep the president accountable, presumably by impeachment if it were called for.

 

Shortly after Mueller’s speech, President Trump tweeted, “Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you” [sic]. Previously, he had claimed in tweets that the Mueller report had exonerated him, which Mueller denied. Although Mueller had found no evidence of collusion between the president and the Russian government or any of its agents, he did not reach a conclusion on whether the former had obstructed justice. 

 

Mueller also stressed the importance of his conclusion concerning Russian interference in the presidential election, stating that “they used sophisticated cyber techniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign” and “stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities, and through the organization WikiLeaks.” He concluded by stating that these allegations “deserve the attention of every American.”

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