(CNSNews.com) – Because of the Justice Department’s “longstanding policy,” that it is unconstitutional for a president to be charged with a federal crime while in office, the special counsel’s office did not make a determination as to whether or not President Donald Trump committed a crime, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Wednesday.
Mueller said his office is not confident that Trump did not commit a crime. Furthermore, given DOJ policy, charging the president with a crime was not an option the special counsel’s office could even consider.
“If we had 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. The introduction to the volume 2 of our report explains that decision,” Mueller said.
“It explains that under longstanding department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited. The special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider,” he said.
Mueller also said that the evidence used in the investigation of Trump could have been used to charge co-conspirators.
However, no one has been charged with conspiracy in the probe – a fact that Mueller did not mention.
“The department’s written opinion explaining the policy makes several important points that further informed our handling of the obstruction investigation. Those points are summarized in our report, and I will describe two of them for you,” he said.
“First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president, because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could be charged now,” Mueller said.
“And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing. And beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge,” he said.
Mueller concluded his remarks, saying he has no plans to testify before Congress and that the report is his testimony.