Natasha Bertrand reports:
Special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday said he would prefer to not testify before Congress about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner. I am making that decision myself,” Mueller said in remarks on camera at the Justice Department. "I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation."
Mueller also said he would be resigning from his position and returning to private life.
His remarks were the first time the public had heard from Mueller after two years, 199 criminal charges and 37 indictments.
Mueller delivered the statement more than two months after he submitted his 448-page final report on the 22-month Russia investigation. He did not take any questions.
The rare statement came after negotiations between Mueller’s team and the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees for him to testify publicly about his findings — talks that have faltered in recent weeks as Mueller has sought clarity from the Justice Department on the boundaries of his would-be testimony.
The White House was notified on Tuesday night that Mueller might make a statement on Wednesday and was not caught off-guard by the announcement. It’s not clear whether the White House knows what Mueller will say, but President Donald Trump will be monitoring the comments, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The House Judiciary Committee was also given a heads up, according to a spokesperson.
Mueller did again outline his findings, which were set out in two separate volumes of his final report. The first section outlined the campaign’s contacts with Russia but determined that the evidence did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the two sides. The second section discussed Trump’s efforts to interfere in the Russia investigation but declined to either indict or exonerate Trump on possible obstruction of justice charges.
Justice Department officials confirmed to POLITICO last month that Mueller wrote a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr in March complaining that a four-page memo Barr wrote characterizing Mueller’s primary findings “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the Russia investigation.
Mueller sent the letter to Barr on March 27, three days after Barr issued his four-page summary. The missive cited “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 wrote at the time.