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Charging Trump with crime wasn't an option: Mueller


Delivering his first public statement since the end of his 22-month long investigation into alleged Russian collusion in 2016 presidential polls, Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday said charging President Donald Trump with a federal crime was not an option under the Justice Department's guidelines.
Speaking about his Russia probe report, Mueller said that Trump could not be charged as he is in office, and charging him would be unconstitutional.
"If my office had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the President did commit a crime. A President cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional," CNN quoted him as saying.
"Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited. Charging the President with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider," he added.
Mueller alleged that Russian intelligence officers colluded with the military and "launched a concerted attack on our political system" in an attempt to "interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate."
"The indictment alleges that they (Russians) used sophisticated cyber techniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization Wikileaks," he said.
The Special Counsel contended that Russia's alleged move should concern every American citizen.
Underlining that his 448-page report was his testimony, Mueller said, " I am making that decision myself. No one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter. 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. 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 is already public in any appearance before Congress," he further said.
Meanwhile, Trump, who has repeatedly called Mueller's probe as a "witchhunt", said there was "insufficient evidence" and the "case is closed".
"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," Trump tweeted.
The investigation, which began in 2017, led to 35 people being charged, including those who were a part of Trump's campaign and administration.
In April, Mueller gave a clean chit to Trump with regard to Russian collusion in his 2016 presidential campaign, the Special Counsel fell short of completely exonerating the President when it came to obstruction of justice charges.
Attorney General William Barr, on the other hand, decided not to press charges against Trump, citing a lack of evidence in the Mueller report.
The Democrats have severely criticised the Trump-nominated Attorney General for his decision and have continued pressing for the public release of the complete report.

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First Published: May 29 2019 | 10:53 PM IST

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