Throughout the entirety of the Russia probe, Mueller has remained largely out of the public eye. So when the Justice Department announced Wednesday morning that Mueller would give a press conference at 11, the media spent a little over an hour spiraling down a well of speculation: What will he say? Was the White House informed of this? And, of utmost importance, what does his voice sound like?
For those of us following the Russia probe, Wednesday was the first time we’ve heard Mueller speak since he was appointed to take over the investigation. During the measured delivery of his 10-minute statement before reporters, Mueller made some notable, pointed statements and resigned as special counsel. Our main takeaways — which are outlined in more detail here — are that Mueller chose to emphasize that he would’ve cleared Trump’s name if he felt confident Trump hadn’t committed a crime; that the special counsel doesn’t want to testify before Congress; and that he pointedly mentioned that the Constitution “requires a process other than the criminal justice system” to accuse a president of wrongdoing — a statement likely alluding to impeachment.
Mueller’s statement also appeared to break with comments by Attorney General William Barr. Specifically, their opinions on who should be allowed to determine whether obstruction of justice occurred seemed to differ. Barr thinks it’s his office’s responsibility, and Mueller made clear the decision is up to Congress. The two also don’t see eye-to-eye on whether there was no evidence, or insufficient evidence, of collusion.
In response, key Trump allies made subtle changes to their characterization of whether Trump obstructed justice, with many hanging the “no obstruction” rhetoric on Barr rather than Mueller. But some, like Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, stuck to their guns. The former New York City mayor called Mueller’s remark — that if the special counsel’s office had “confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so” — a “perversion” and suggested that Mueller was in cahoots with the media to take down Trump.
Seemingly in response to Mueller’s short, structured statement, Barr gave an hour long interview to CBS just days after the press conference, in which he not only piled on to some of his previous criticism of Mueller, but also dug in his heels in defense of Trump’s most divisive interests.
Meanwhile earlier this week, Trump admitted — for the first time — that Russia did, in fact, help him get elected. The Trump campaign launched into damage control mode, labeling the admission a typo and Trump immediately walked it back while spouting off about a litany of other topics to reporters.
“No Russia did not get me elected,” he told the scrum Thursday. “Do you know who got me elected? I got me elected.”