Mueller: Charging president with a crime was 'not an option we could consider'

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Schiff says Intel panel will hold 'series' of hearings on Mueller report MORE, in his first public comments on his two-year investigation surrounding President TrumpDonald John TrumpConway defends herself against Hatch Act allegations amid threat of subpoena How to defuse Gulf tensions and avoid war with Iran Trump says 'stubborn child' Fed 'blew it' by not cutting rates MORE and his campaign, said Wednesday that his office did not charge Trump with a crime because it “was not an option” under Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations.

Mueller, in a dramatic appearance at DOJ headquarters, said it would have been impossible to bring Trump to court and that his final report clearly spelled out that investigators did not conclude that the president was innocent of a crime.

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“After that investigation, if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” Mueller said during his eight-minute address. 

Mueller’s statement, which he said he hopes and expects be his last public remarks on the report, is likely to amp up pressure on Democrats in Congress to impeach Trump.

While he didn’t mention impeachment directly, Mueller said the Constitution requires a "process other than the criminal justice system" to take disciplinary action against a sitting president.

Some Democrats in Congress are pushing for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThis week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Judd Gregg: An Irish friend and wisdom Juan Williams: Warren on the rise MORE (D-Calif.) to start an impeachment inquiry against Trump, after Mueller laid out evidence of possible obstruction of justice by the president in his report.

But Pelosi and other top House Democrats have shied away from starting such proceedings, pointing to recent victories in court over Trump in their ongoing investigations as reason that impeachment isn’t necessary at this time.

Reading carefully from his prepared statement, Mueller said Wednesday that the DOJ guidance, in the form of an opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel, "explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president because it’s important to preserve evidence when memories are fresh and documents are available."

And he noted that the opinion would have prohibited him from filing a charge under seal that could be made public once Trump left office.

Mueller, who declined to take questions from reporters, did not clarify whether his office would have charged Trump with a crime if the DOJ guidance had not been in place.

But he said that "it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge."

Half of Mueller's 448-page long report released last month laid out a case that Trump may have sought to obstruct Mueller's probe, but the special counsel's office declined to bring forward such a charge.

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck Supreme Court set to deliver ruling on census citizenship question Trump: 'I think I win the election easier' if Democrats launch impeachment proceedings MORE later said that he and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump: Appointing Sessions was my biggest mistake Trump blasts Mueller, decries 'witch hunt' at 2020 launch Trump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon MORE reviewed the evidence, and found that it was insufficient to charge Trump with a crime.

Trump and his allies have pointed to Mueller not bringing forward an obstruction charge as evidence of the president’s innocence, even as Mueller has made clear that his report did not exonerate Trump.

The president highlighted that point in a tweet sent shortly after Mueller’s remarks.

“There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our country, a person is innocent,” Trump tweeted. “The case is closed!”

But other Democrats aren’t buying that argument.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler apologized after repeatedly calling Hope Hicks 'Ms. Lewandowski' at hearing Hope Hicks: Trump campaign felt 'relief' after WikiLeaks released damaging info about Hillary Clinton House hearing marks historic moment for slavery reparations debate MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement after Mueller’s remarks that while the Mueller couldn’t bring charges against Trump under DOJ policy, “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.”

“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,” Nadler said.

It is unclear if Nadler will subpoena Mueller to testify before his panel.

This report was last updated at 1:47 p.m.

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