Special counsel Robert Mueller delivered a valedictory statement Wednesday before he resigned from his two-year investigation into President Trump, saying he could not exonerate the president of criminal wrongdoing.
Though he’d said as much in his 448-page report, hearing it from the mouth of the man who spent two years investigating Mr. Trump was a dam-break moment for many Democrats on Capitol Hill and on the 2020 presidential campaign trail, who said Mr. Mueller’s statement was an invitation to begin impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump.
In a nine-minute statement from the Justice Department’s headquarters in Washington Mr. Mueller said his work was done, he was shutting down the special counsel’s office and would resist calls to testify to Congress or speak publicly, saying his 448-page report spoke for itself.
But it was his summary that rekindled the impeachment fire for many Democrats.
“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mr. Mueller said. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
Yet he did make such a determination on one aspect of his investigation, saying there was “insufficient evidence” to conclude the president or his team conspired with Russia to subvert the 2016 election. But when it came to whether the president obstructed justice in trying to stymy investigations into the election, Mr. Mueller said they didn’t attempt to reach a conclusion because of the department’s policy.
“We concluded that we would not reach a determination, one way or the other, about whether the president committed a crime,” he said.
The seemingly contradictory statements fueled diametrically opposed reactions from the president’s supporters and his political opponents.