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Mueller said that he could not indict U.S. President Donald Trump due to a policy of Justice Department not allowing charges against a sitting president.
Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller Wednesday told a U.S. congressional hearing he had not exonerated President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice and indicated he would have sought his indictment were it not for a Justice Department policy against bringing charges against a sitting president.
Democratic Representative Ted Lieu asked Mueller if the reason he did not bring a criminal indictment against Trump was the Justice Department’s longstanding policy crafted by its Office of Legal Counsel against bringing criminal charges against a sitting president. “That is correct,” Mueller said.
Mueller, answering questions publicly for the first time on his inquiry, also defended the integrity of his investigation. The former FBI director, who spent 22 months investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections, appeared for more than 3-1/2 hours before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. Mueller then appeared before the House Intelligence Committee for more questioning.
"The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” stated Mueller’s report, parts of which were disclosed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
While the report “does not conclude that the president committed a crime it also does no exonerate him.”
Mueller’s 448-page report, released in redacted form on April 18, did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump committed the crime of obstruction of justice in a series of actions aimed at impeding the inquiry, but did not exonerate him.
Trump has claimed that the Mueller inquiry resulted in the president’s “complete and total exoneration.”
“Did you actually totally exonerate the president?” Judiciary Committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerrold Nadler asked Mueller. “No,” Mueller replied.
Mueller, accused by Trump of heading a “witch hunt” and trying to orchestrate a “coup” against the Republican president, said his inquiry was conducted in “a fair and independent manner” and that members of the special counsel’s team “were of the highest integrity.”
Democrats entered the hearings hoping his testimony would rally public support behind their own ongoing investigations of the president and his administration. Democrats are deeply divided over whether to launch the impeachment process set out in the U.S. Constitution for removing a president from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Democrats focused on five actions by Trump that Mueller had investigated as potential obstruction of justice, including at one point telling his White House counsel to remove the special counsel.
“Obstruction of justice strikes at the core of the government’s efforts to find the truth and to hold wrongdoers accountable,” Mueller testified.
Before the hearing, Trump complained on Twitter that Mueller had not investigated various of the president’s foes including 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.