Following special counsel Robert Mueller’s first public statement about the two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler declared, “With respect to [the] impeachment question at this point, all options are on the table.”
“And nothing should be ruled out,” said Rep. Nadler, D-N.Y., who made a statement to reporters Wednesday. “What special counsel Mueller said loud and clear today for the American people is that President Trump is lying when he says no collusion, no obstruction and that he was exonerated.”
A few hours earlier, Mueller, in his first public statement since the probe into Russian influence over the 2016 election began in May 2017, announced that his office was formally closing and he was resigning “to return to private life.” Although Trump said Mueller’s statement marked an official end to the investigation into his campaign and administration, Democrats, including presidential candidates, responded to Mueller’s statement with redoubled calls for impeachment.
“The case is closed!” Trump tweeted shortly after Mueller’s 10-minute statement at the Department of Justice concluded. Mueller took no questions.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., one of the first Democrats to call for impeachment after reading the full report upon its release, said, “Mueller’s statement makes clear what those who have read his report know: It is an impeachment referral, and it’s up to Congress to act. They should.”
“What Robert Mueller basically did was return an impeachment referral,” wrote Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. “Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable. We need to start impeachment proceedings. It's our constitutional obligation.”
And Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., the only Republican to call for impeachment proceedings after the Mueller report was released, said, “The ball is in our court, Congress.”
Mueller did not specifically refer to impeachment in his remarks.
Congressional Democrats have sought Mueller’s testimony and are considering a subpoena if necessary, but Mueller affirmed that “the office’s written work speaks for itself” and “the report is my testimony.”
“Special counsel Mueller today repeated three central points which are critical for the American people,” Nadler said.
“One, the special counsel did not exonerate the president of the United States of obstruction of justice. Two, obstruction of justice, of which special counsel Mueller found substantial evidence, is a serious crime that strikes at the core of our justice system. Three, the Constitution points to Congress to take action to hold the president accountable for his misconduct.”
“Unfortunately,” he continued, “special counsel Mueller was unable to pursue criminal charges against the president because the Department of Justice policy prevents a sitting president from being prosecuted. That policy, in my opinion, is wrong, but it prevented special counsel from pursuing justice to the fullest extent possible.”
Therefore, Nadler said, “it falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump. We will do so.”
He added: “Make no mistake, no one — not even the president of the United States — is above the law.”
Mueller was appointed to investigate efforts by the Russian government to influence the U.S. election and the Trump campaign’s response to the interference. The 448-page report concluded in its first part that there was no broader conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia. The probe also looked into possible obstruction of justice by or on behalf of the president.
Trump had previously declared “total and complete exoneration” after the investigation ended in March, based on a summary by Attorney General William Barr, and again when the report was released to the public a month later, despite a passage saying that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Nadler accused the president of “lying about the special counsel’s findings, lying and saying that the special counsel found no obstruction and no collusion — and I should add the attorney general is lying about that too.”
“That is serious and we will take action to hold the president accountable for his misconduct,” he said.
Mueller assured that in the investigation into obstruction, “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. The introduction to the volume II 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,” continued Mueller. “That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited. The special counsel office is part of the Department of Justice and by regulation it was bound by that department policy.”
Mueller said, “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.” He added, “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 the actual charge.”
When asked if he still plans to subpoena Mueller, who made clear he had nothing to add beyond what was in the report, Nadler said, “Mr. Mueller told us a lot of what we needed to hear today.”
“He reaffirmed what was in the investigation, which was in the report about the investigation, which found substantial evidence that Russia attacked out political system,” said Nadler. “That the Trump campaign benefited from Russia interference, that Trump and those around him repeatedly welcomed Russia’s support and through the investigation, Trump sought to obstruct justice and undermine Mueller and the investigation over and over again.”
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