Ex-federal prosecutor says Mueller press conference 'muddied the waters'

Former federal prosecutor Joseph Moreno criticized special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE over his decision to hold a press conference before cameras Wednesday on the conclusions of his two-year investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“This really muddied the waters in a way that was perhaps not necessary,” Moreno told Hill.TV hosts Jamal Simmons and Buck Sexton on Thursday.

In his first public remarks on the case since concluding his investigation, Mueller outlined his findings and explained that his team could not have brought charges against Trump given Department of Justice guidance forbidding them against a sitting president.

"Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider," Mueller said.

Moreno said that while Mueller's comments about the Justice Department’s longstanding policy wasn't a surprise to the intelligence community, the special counsel could have been more upfront with the public from the very beginning of his probe.

“You’re not supposed to editorialize about someone if you’re not bringing charges but then kind of dirty them up and then say, ‘well, perhaps we could have but I could have exonerated him but I didn’t want to do that either,’ ” he said.

Mueller’s surprise remarks also drew criticism from the president himself.

In a series of tweets, Trump expressed his frustration with Mueller’s remarks, even accusing the special counsel of being “a true never-Trumper."

He also downplayed the possibility of impeachment, saying it has "nothing to do with me.”

While Democratic congressional leaders have openly opposed impeachment, Mueller’s remarks have fueled calls for impeachment among some Democrats.  

“It wasn't lack of evidence. It was DOJ policy,” Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Acosta resigns amid controversy over Epstein plea deal The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Democrats rush to support Pelosi amid fight with Ocasio-Cortez MORE (D-Fla.), who has previously supported calls impeachment, tweeted following the conference. “[Mueller] said that this ‘deserves the attention of every American.’ He's right. Congress must act.”

—Tess Bonn