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A Look At Robert Mueller's Remarks About The Russia Investigation

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBERT MUELLER: Good morning, everyone. And thank you for being here.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

That's Robert Mueller, speaking publicly today for the first time in two years as he stepped down from the post of special counsel. In the two months since Mueller delivered his report on Trump associates and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, there has been plenty of speculation about whether Mueller thought President Trump was guilty of a crime and whether Mueller would testify before Congress. He did not drop any bombshells today, but his final statement did provide plenty of material for discussion.

And for a closer read of his speech, we're joined by Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center. Welcome back to the program.

JEFFREY ROSEN: Great to be back.

SHAPIRO: First, what's your reaction to the fact that Mueller spoke at all?

ROSEN: Well, of course, it was dramatic to hear on the Greta Garbo of constitutional investigations...

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

ROSEN: We heard his voice, which was so exciting.

SHAPIRO: Right.

ROSEN: And it was measured. And he stressed that he thought the report spoke for itself, but he did emphasize very clearly that although he didn't make a determination about whether the president committed a crime, the matters we investigated were of paramount importance, seeming to contradict the attorney general's claim that the president did absolutely nothing wrong.

And I guess the most striking thing was he referred obliquely to the impeachment process. He said that the Constitution contemplates other procedures than criminal prosecution, and that justified his decision to collect the evidence in the first place - again, rebuking the attorney general's claim that it was inappropriate to collect evidence that should just be presented to Congress.

SHAPIRO: So did you see this as a direct rebuttal to the exoneration line that we have heard from President Trump and his supporters?

ROSEN: I guess you'd have to say that it was neither a rebuttal nor an endorsement. But...

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

ROSEN: But he did rebut the claim that he hadn't reached a judgment either way.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

ROSEN: He said, we determined we could not reach a decision about whether or not the president committed a crime because the Constitution does not allow for criminal prosecution of a president, according to Justice Department policy. Of course, he didn't even say whether he agreed with that policy, but he indicated that he was bound to abide by it. And he very clearly indicated that he did think that it was appropriate for Congress to consider as evidence because that was one of the procedures that he obliquely referred to.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. So let me ask you about that. Garrett Graff, who wrote a biography of Robert Mueller, tweeted today, quote, "Mueller is, in his own Mueller-like way, screaming for presidential impeachment proceedings, but he's too respectful to say it as directly as America and Congress evidently needs him to say it." Do you agree with that interpretation?

ROSEN: Screaming is not something that Robert Mueller did today, and I don't think it's something that he does. But he was saying in his very direct and clear way that it was up to Congress to evaluate the report and that the entire report was written for Congress, and he thought it was appropriate for Congress to reach its own determination about whether or not the president committed a crime. So although he wasn't saying what Congress should do, he was very clearly putting the ball in Congress's court.

SHAPIRO: Just in our last minute, Mueller also spent a good portion of his remarks talking about Russian efforts to influence the election and the fact that the threat has not gone away. Did you sense a note of frustration that perhaps the government isn't doing enough to address that?

ROSEN: Well, so much of the report was dedicated systematically to outlining what had already taken place. And Mueller was clearly signaling, this is serious. We found these facts. It's really happening. Please, Congress, pay attention because the threat is real.

SHAPIRO: That is Jeffrey Rosen, CEO of the National Constitution Center. Thanks for joining us.

ROSEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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