Robert Mueller: Charging Trump was not an option

Media captionRobert Mueller: Charging Donald Trump “was not an option”

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller has said charging President Donald Trump with a crime was not an option, in his first comments on the Russia inquiry.

He reiterated that his report did not exonerate the president and that legal guidelines prevent the indictment of a sitting president.

Mr Mueller did not rule out testifying in Congress but said he would not give information that was not in his report.

Reacting to the remarks, Mr Trump said: “The case is closed! Thank you.”

Image Copyright @realDonaldTrump

Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump: Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.Image Copyright @realDonaldTrump

As special counsel, Mr Mueller was tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

His team concluded there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, but did not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice.

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It did detail 10 instances where Mr Trump had possibly attempted to impede the investigation.

What did Mueller say?

His statement largely reaffirmed what was in the report.

He said that if his team had had confidence that Mr Trump “clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so”.

Mr Mueller added that “the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,” in what was seen as a reference to the ability of Congress to start an impeachment process.

Media captionThe Mueller report – in 60 seconds

The special counsel said he did not believe it was “appropriate to speak further” about the investigation and that he would not provide any information that was not in his team’s 448-page report.

With Democratic lawmakers seeking to have him testify in Congress, Mr Mueller said: “The report is my testimony.”

He also announced the formal closure of the special counsel office and his resignation from the justice department to return to private life.

Read my report, says Mueller

Robert Mueller didn’t break much new ground in his eight-minute statement announcing the official end of the special counsel investigation. Instead, he highlighted in bold what he views as the key points of nearly two years of work.

Mr Mueller started and ended by emphasising that America during the 2016 election was under attack by malign foreign actors. He said those allegations deserve the attention of every American.

In the portion of his investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Mr Mueller said there was “insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy” – hardly the complete vindication the president asserts.

When it comes to obstruction of justice, he chipped away further at the president’s defences. Mr Trump wasn’t exonerated, “charging the president” wasn’t an option. If Mr Mueller has his way, his role in this drama is at an end. His report speaks for itself, he said, and he wouldn’t engage in “conclusions or hypotheticals about the president”.

That may not be enough for Democrats in Congress, who still want to question Mr Mueller in person. If Mr Mueller is to be believed, however, all they need to know – all he will offer them – is written in the pages of his report.