WASHINGTON, DC.- The special counsel who investigated alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and possible coordination between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s campaign said Wednesday that he never contemplated charging the current occupant of the White House with a crime because of Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president.
«Charging the president with a crime was not, therefore, an option we could consider,» Robert Mueller told a press conference at the Department of Justice.
He said the first volume of his report, addressing the allegations of Russian meddling, concluded that while Moscow did engage in «systematic efforts» to interfere with the electoral process, there was «insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy» between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
former FBI director then turned to the second volume of the report, which focuses on possible obstruction of justice by the president and his aides in the form of attempts to derail the investigation.
Regarding obstruction, Mueller said: «if we had 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,» he said.
The special counsel, who resigned effective Wednesday, stressed that it was not a question of being unable to make such a determination.
Rather, Mueller said, he and his team were bound by the long-standing Justice Department policy that «a president cannot be charged with a federal crime when he is president. It is not constitutional.»
«It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of an actual charge,» he said, noting that the «Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a president of wrongdoing.»
While some in Congress want to hear testimony from Mueller about the probe, the special counsel said that he does wish to appear before lawmakers or discuss the investigation in any other forum.
«I hope and expect this will be the only time I will speak to you in this manner,» he said.
«It’s important the office’s written work speaks for itself,» Mueller said of the report, which he delivered in March to Attorney General William Barr.
Mueller was emphatic that he had nothing to add to the findings stated in the report, a redacted version of which was made public last month.
Lawmakers have the right to compel Mueller’s testimony via subpoena.