Special Counsel Robert Mueller broke his silence for the first time on Wednesday, delivering a statement to the press about his nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Taking no questions, Mueller explained that he was “speaking out today because our investigation is complete,” and announced that he was resigning from the Department of Justice to return to private life.
Mueller then discussed the origins of his investigation, focusing on alleged Russian efforts to subvert and influence the 2016 election through both hacking and a coordinated social media campaign. But, he noted, his investigation also focused on efforts to obstruct his work.
“If we had had confidence that the president had clearly not committed a crime we would have said so,” Mueller said, adding that under “longstanding” DOJ policy, a sitting president could not be charged with a federal crime.
“Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider,” Mueller continued.
He also took great pains to hold the report—and his remarks—up as the final word on his investigation, saying “the report is my testimony” in response to ongoing questions from both Democrats and some Republicans about whether he would testify before Congress.
Concluding his brief remarks, Mueller thanked his colleagues in the Special Counsel’s office and reiterated that there were “multiple, systematic” efforts to interfere with the election.
The White House was reportedly notified that Mueller planned to speak today on Tuesday evening, while Attorney General William Barr was reportedly given a full briefing on the content of Mueller’s remarks. Congressional Republicans, however, were reportedly not given notice that Mueller intended to make public remarks. According to CNN, Donald Trump was watching the remarks live.
Interest in Mueller testifying spiked earlier this spring after it was reported that the Special Counsel’s office objected to Barr’s public characterization of its findings, which framed Mueller’s report as being a near-total exoneration of the president and his allies. In his full report, Mueller highlighted a number of instances of potential obstruction of justice on the part of President Trump and members of his administration.
You can watch Mueller’s entire statement below:
Update, 11:40 a.m. ET: President Trump has responded with a predictable misrepresentation of what Mueller actually said.