For the last two years, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has remained silent about the investigation into Russian election interference into the actions of President Donald Trump. All that changed on Wednesday when he stepped in front of a microphone at the Justice Department to provide some clarity into what the investigation found.
Mueller underscored what may be the most pressing finding of the investigation: that Russian intelligence officers attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election
“Russian intelligence officers, who were part of the Russian military, launched a concerted attack on our political system,” Mueller said.
When he addressed the issue of whether Trump obstructed justice, Mueller cited Department of Justice policy into the decision to not pursue charges against the president.
“Under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office,” Mueller explained. “That is unconstitutional.”
However, Mueller made it clear that his team did not exonerate Trump of any wrongdoing.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
Mueller submitted his final investigative report to Attorney General William Barr on March 22. Two days later, Barr released a letter summarizing his own principal conclusions from the report and said there was not sufficient evidence to establish that then-candidate Trump’s campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with the Russian government.
Then, on April 18, Barr released a redacted version of Mueller’s report to the public.
Mueller closed his statement Wednesday with a warning to lawmakers and the public.
“There were multiple systemic efforts to interfere in our election — attacks — and that allegation deserves the attention of every American,” he said.
Mueller’s statement sparked plenty of reaction around the country and in Washington, DC.
Some lawmakers, including Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Kamala Harris, say Congress must act, referring to Mueller’s report as a referral for impeachment. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler (D-NY), said the committee will continue its investigation into the president.
The White House said it’s time for Congress and the administration to move on.
“We’re going to move forward doing what we think is important and focus on things that actually help people,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said.
Trump himself responded to Mueller’s statement via Twitter, saying “the case is closed.”
Central Ohio Congressman Steve Stivers (R) seems to walk a fine line between his colleagues in the democratic House majority and the Trump administration. He told NBC4’s Colleen Marshall that it’s time for the White House and Congress to get to work for the people.
“I go to Washington and make a sacrifice to leave my family every week to get things done for my constituents and for the rest of this country,” Stivers said. “I hope everybody who is blessed to have the trust of the American people does the same thing.”
Stivers said he is about halfway through reading the Mueller report.
“From what I’ve read, there clearly does not look like there was any collusion with Russian agents,” Stivers said. “It’s also clear that Russian agents were attempting to interfere with our election.”
Stivers said he doesn’t know yet whether the president obstructed justice.
“Part of obstruction of justice comes down to are you covering up a crime or something that happened,” Stivers explained. “Because there’s no collusion, I think that does raise the bar on what obstruction of justice is.”
Stivers said that Congress should continue the investigations into Trump but not for political gain.
“I do believe that the tone and tenor of those investigations should be for investigation purposes, not for political purposes,” he said. “I think there are some folks in the House Democratic majority that are using investigations as political foils, not to get to the truth.”
With impeachment becoming a hot topic of discussion, Stivers declined to say whether he would vote for impeachment but said that if he concludes that Trump obstructed justice, that is a very serious issue.