Robert Mueller today broke two years of silence to announce his office is closing and he is resigning from the Justice Department.
“I have not spoken publicly during our investigation. I am speaking out today because our investigation is complete,” Mueller said during a surprise press conference. “We are formally closing the special counsel’s office and as well I am resigning from the department of justice to return to private life.”
The statement was Mueller’s first public, on-camera comments since he was appointed as special counsel in 2017 to investigate Russian efforts to meddle in the last presidential election. Mueller’s investigation concluded in April when he sent his long-awaited report to Attorney General William Barr.
Mueller’s final report said his team did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government—but found 10 episodes of possible obstruction-of-justice offenses committed by President Trump. Mueller controversially chose not to make a determination whether Trump broke the law.
“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” it said.
Barr did not immediately release the report. Instead, he wrote a summary to Congress that Democrats said inaccurately portrayed Mueller’s conclusions as more favorable towards Trump than they actually were.
Mueller then took the extraordinary step of criticizing Barr in a private letter, writing his summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.
“There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”
Mueller asked Barr to immediately release the 448-page report’s executive summaries to clear up the confusion, but he did not. Instead, Barr waited several weeks to release a redacted version of the report—but not before giving a press conference that spun for Trump.
In a contentious Senate hearing after revelation of Mueller’s letter, Barr defended his handling of the report and played down any possibility of tension with Mueller. The letter’s “snitty” tone, he said, suggested that it had been written by special counsel staff rather than Mueller.
Ever since the report’s release, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have been battling the Justice Department for access both to Mueller and the unredacted report.
Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has pushed the department to schedule testimony from Mueller, but no date has been set. Meanwhile, committee Democrats voted to hold Barr in contempt when he defied a committee subpoena for his testimony and an unredacted version of the report.
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