Mueller report suggests Congress should judge whether Trump obstructed justice
"If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state," Mueller wrote in his report, which the Justice Department released in redacted form on Thursday.
"Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment," the report said.
Mueller did not conclude that the president committed a crime. Instead, in its 448 pages of legal analysis and supporting evidence, his report detailed "multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations."
"The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests," the report said.
The report indicated that Mueller decided earlier in his investigation that he would not make a specific decision about obstruction charges and would, instead, defer to lawmakers.
"We determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes," the report said. Because Justice Department policy holds that a sitting president can't be subject to trial, an accusation of criminal conduct would put a president in limbo, under a cloud, but unable to clear himself, he wrote.
That problem doesn't apply to congressional proceedings, Mueller wrote, and Congress has full power to judge the president's conduct.
Even if a president exercised powers that came with his office, "Congress has authority to prohibit a President's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice," he wrote.
Mueller did not express an opinion on whether the evidence would add up to an impeachable offense but noted that "the conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president's corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law."