FBI special counsel Robert Mueller concluded his brief remarks today with a direct call for action, putting pressure on members of Congress to do more to investigate Russia’s role in the 2016 election:
“I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments—that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election,” he said about his two-year investigation into Russian meddling. “That allegation deserves the attention of every American.”
These would be his final words on the topic, Mueller said, noting he would not appear in front of Congress, or further speak publicly about the investigation.
Trump’s innocence or guilt
Mueller made several remarks about US president Donald Trump’s innocence or lack thereof during his press conference, noting that when a subject of an investigation obstructs or lies to investigators, it strikes “at the core of the government’s effort to find the truth.”
Mueller reiterated that he thought the president may have committed a crime: “If we had had confidence that the president had not committed a crime, we would have said so.”
He then repeated his reasoning for not declaring in his report that Trump had committed any illegal acts. Long-standing Department of Justice policy, the reasoning goes, holds that it is unconstitutional for the department to charge a sitting president with a crime. It was “not an option we could consider,” Mueller said. He added that it would be further unfair to accuse someone of a crime if “there can no court resolution of an actual charge.”
The special counsel said he still conducted the investigation, however, because it is “important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents are available.”
Like the original release of the Mueller report, some took Mueller’s statements today to mean that Congress should now take up the investigation.
In his statement, Mueller is directly appealing to Congress to act, said Justin Amash, the Michigan representative who is the sole Republican in Congress to say publicly that the Mueller report calls for further investigation.
Americans should read the report as an impeachment referral, Democrat Kamala Harris, the California senator and presidential candidate, said.
The White House and Trump’s supporters in Congress appear to have heard a different message entirely.
“After two years, the Special Counsel is moving on with his life, and everyone else should do the same,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters after Mueller spoke. Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senator from South Carolina, indicated after Mueller spoke he didn’t plan to pursue anything new.
Donald Trump has repeatedly called Mueller’s investigation a “sham” and a “witch hunt,” while downplaying any impact Russia may have had on the 2016 election. This view is disputed by many Republicans in Congress, including his own top officials. But Republicans have so far stopped short of delving into the Trump campaign’s possible cooperation with Russia or obstruction of the Mueller investigation.
Meanwhile, the White House is refusing to cooperate with multiple Democratic investigations into the subject in the House. A State Department unit created to fight propaganda in US elections after the 2016 election remains unfunded, and the Department of Homeland Security, which is tasked with election security, is in chaos after a series of high-profile departures.