Robert Mueller on Trump and Russian interference: The report 'speaks for itself'

In his first public statement, the departing special counsel says charging President Trump wasn't an option his office could even consider.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
4 min read

Special Counsel Robert Mueller speaks on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images

Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally addressed the public, following weeks of debate between Republicans and Democrats over the findings of an investigation that's inflamed political tensions in the US. But he directed attention away from himself and back to the 448-page report, compiled over two years, that his office independently produced for the Justice Department.

The bottom line: There's no question Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election and that its attacks on the US "deserves the attention of every American." 

And regarding President Donald Trump's actions, Mueller added, "As set forth in the report, after the investigation, if we had confidence that the president did not clearly commit a crime, we would have said so." 

This is Mueller's first public statement about Russian interference in the election since he was appointed to lead the investigation in May 2017, a move that spurred nearly two years of intense speculation and questions about Trump and his team. Mueller submitted the report to Attorney General William Barr, who released a redacted version to the public on April 18.

"It is important that the office's written work speaks for itself," Mueller, a former head of the FBI who was appointed by then President George W. Bush, said in a 10-minute press briefing Wednesday. "The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress."

At the opening, Mueller said the Justice Department is closing the special counsel's office and that he'll resign from the agency. Members of Congress have asked for Mueller to testify to lawmakers on his findings, but in his statement he explained he wouldn't expand on what the report has already detailed. 

While Democrats have looked at the report as reason for further investigation into President Trump, Trump has inaccurately claimed the Mueller report found "no collusion and no obstruction." 

After Mueller's statement, Trump tweeted that nothing had changed from the report. 

The report revealed new information, including that Russian hackers infiltrated voter databases in two Florida counties. It also detailed how Russian hackers accessed the Democratic National Committee's servers, as well as how nation-state attackers coordinated a disinformation campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

The report also found that the Russian government, which is led by President Vladimir Putin, interfered with the 2016 presidential election "in sweeping and systematic fashion." Mueller reinforced that on Wednesday. "There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American." 

At a press conference in New York, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, called for Congress to focus on preventing Russian election interference in next year's White House race. 

"This report is a wake-up call. We must get right on the horse and do everything we can to stop Russia from interfering in the 2020 election," Schumer said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, made a comment about Trump's team and echoed Mueller's points about Russian election interference. 

"The report shows that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and any member or operative of the Russian government," Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said in a statement. "However, there was a systematic effort by Russia to disrupt our election. We should be on guard for future election attacks by Russia and other bad actors."
Sen. Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called for Congress to pass legislation that would improve election security and transparency from social media companies. 

"What is clear is that Russia deployed a sophisticated cyber campaign in order to interfere in our democratic process and tip the scales in favor of then-candidate Donald Trump," Warner said in a statement. "As the special counsel made clear today, it's up to Congress to uphold the rule of law, and ensure this never happens again."

Attorney General Barr noted that the investigation did not find any Americans knowingly worked with Russia on the cyberattacks and the social media fraud

While the report explained that Russian efforts focused to help the Trump campaign, the White House argues the campaign didn't coordinate with the nation-state actors. Mueller explained further in his statement on Wednesday why the office chose not to press charges against Trump. He said that a sitting president couldn't be charged with a federal crime while in office, and the investigation was bound by that. 

"It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge," Mueller said. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, said in a statement that Congress will continue to investigate Mueller's findings, and called for the Senate to pass the For the People Act, a bill to strengthen election security.

"The special counsel's report revealed that the president's campaign welcomed Russian interference in the election, and laid out eleven instances of the president's obstruction of the investigation," Pelosi said in a statement. "The Congress holds sacred its constitutional responsibility to investigate and hold the president accountable for his abuse of power."

Mueller didn't take questions after making his statement. 

Originally published May 29, 8:09 a.m. PT.
Updates, 8:18 a.m.: Includes more details from Mueller's statement; 8:41 a.m.: Adds statements from Sen. Schumer and Trump; 9:27 a.m.: Includes remarks from Sen. Graham. 9:45 a.m.: Adds statement from Sen. Warner. 10:23 a.m.: Adds remarks from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. May 30, 7:15 a.m.: Adds background. 

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