In his first public statement on the years-long Special Counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Robert Mueller on Wednesday announced the official end of the investigation and indicated he does not intend to testify before Congress.
“Now I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner,” he said. “I am making this decision myself. No one had told me if I can or should testify, or speak further about this matter.”
His decision not to appear before Congress is likely to come as a blow to Democrats, who have repeatedly called on him to testify about his report.
Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has doggedly sought to hear from Mueller, requesting in a formal letter in April that he should testify no later
than May 23.
The Trump administration and Justice Department have stymied
Nadler’s numerous subpoenas and requests for information since the Mueller report was released on April 18.
Mueller, justifying his decision not to testify, said the Justice Department would not provide information that goes beyond the 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,” he said. “And the report is my testimony.”
Mueller’s first—and, apparently, last—public statement on the report lasted no longer than ten minutes. He briefly summarized the objectives of the investigation, and underscored the importance of shining a spotlight on Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.
Mueller briefly touched on two facets of the investigation that have received widespread scrutiny since the report was released.
Mueller said he stopped short of determining if Donald Trump obstructed justice because of a longstanding Justice Department guideline that holds a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.
Nevertheless, he once again declined to exonerate Trump, saying “if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
Mueller also pushed back against claims that he disagreed with Attorney General William Barr’s controversial
précis of the report, which distilled the principal findings of the investigation into a 4-page letter sent to Congress. Democrats have claimed Barr mischaracterized the investigation’s findings in a way favorable to Trump. That charge that was given some currency after a letter
was leaked to the press in which Mueller, writing to Barr, said the summary letter “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions,” and urged the Attorney General to release summaries of the report written by the Special Counsel.
Barr ultimately declined to release the summaries, instead waiting two weeks to release a redacted version of the report to Congress and the public.
“We appreciate that the Attorney General made the report largely public, and I certainly do not question the Attorney General’s good-faith in that decision,” Mueller said.
Mueller, who directed the FBI between 2001 and 2013, announced he would be returning to private life.