In his first public appearance since his appointment as special counsel more than two years ago, Robert Mueller said Wednesday that he would not testify before Congress about any information related to his investigation into Russian electoral interference that was not captured in his final report detailing the probe.
“There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made,” Mueller said. “We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which has already public in any appearance before Congress.”
House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler has reportedly haggled in recent weeks with representatives of the special counsel’s office in an effort to compel Mueller to testify publicly and broadly about his extensive investigation.
Nadler and fellow congressional Democrats have requested that Mueller speak about a range of issues outside the scope of his report, including whether he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and whether Attorney General William Barr misrepresented the report’s findings in a public summary he delivered two weeks before its release. Mueller, meanwhile, has reportedly maintained that he would not speak or speculate about information not included in the 448-page report.
While a number of prominent Democrats have said they must hear from Mueller directly before pursuing an impeachment inquiry against the president, Mueller reiterated during the Wednesday press conference that it is ultimately up to Congress to decide how to proceed given his office’s failure to exonerate the president of obstruction of justice.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mr. Mueller said, reading from prepared notes behind a lectern at the Justice Department. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
Nadler praised Mueller’s professionalism in a statement issued moments after the press conference and emphasized that it falls to Congress to hold Trump accountable for his obstructive behavior since Mueller was bound by Department of Justice guidelines that prohibit the indictment of a sitting president. He did, however, stop short of breaking with Democratic leadership by explicitly calling for the opening of an impeachment inquiry.
“Although Department of Justice policy prevented the Special Counsel from bringing criminal charges against the President, the Special Counsel has clearly demonstrated that President Trump is lying about the Special Counsel’s findings, lying about the testimony of key witnesses in the Special Counsel’s report, and is lying in saying that the Special Counsel found no obstruction and no collusion,” Nadler said. “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 wrongdoing of President Trump – and we will do so. No one, not even the President of the United States, is above the law.”