WASHINGTON • United States Special Counsel Robert Mueller said yesterday his investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election was never going to end with criminal charges against President Donald Trump because of Justice Department policy, and that he would give no more information than what was already published in his report.
Mr Mueller, in his first public comments since starting the investigation in May 2017, also addressed whether there were efforts to obstruct his investigation, saying: "After that investigation, 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."
Mr Mueller said his 448-page report spoke for itself. "Beyond what I've said here today and what is contained in our written work, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further," he said in a brief press appearance at the Justice Department's headquarters. He did not take questions.
Mr Mueller said Justice Department policy prohibited him from bringing charges against a sitting president.
"Charging the President with a crime was... not an option we could consider," he told reporters as he announced his resignation from the Justice Department.
"We concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the President committed a crime."
A redacted version of Mr Mueller's report was published last month, concluding that the campaign of Mr Trump did not engage in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow to win the White House.
Mr Mueller declined to make a judgment on whether Mr Trump had obstructed justice, although the report outlined 10 instances in which the President tried to impede the investigation.
Mr Trump, who has previously said that the two-year investigation exonerated him after repeatedly denouncing it as a witch hunt, reacted swiftly to Mr Mueller's statement yesterday, saying nothing had changed and "the case is closed!"
Mr Trump wrote in a Twitter post: "There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our country, a person is innocent."
Since the report's release, Democratic lawmakers have tried without success to get the full report and underlying evidence. The House Judiciary Committee also is negotiating for Mr Mueller to testify at a hearing.
The Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday vowed to hold Mr Trump accountable.
Mr Jerry Nadler said in a statement: "Given that Special Counsel Mueller was unable to pursue criminal charges against the President, it falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoings of President Trump - and we will do so."