During Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s first public remarks since his team’s 448-page report was released in April, he explained that he did not want to appear before Congress to discuss his findings.
“There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself,” Mueller said Wednesday. “The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
Mueller’s remarks came as a surprise to some. Although the White House had been informed about the statement on Tuesday night, according to a senior official, leadership aides in both parties in Congress said they were unaware until the announcement was issued.
The House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees are in the process of negotiating with the Justice Department for Mueller to appear before Congress. According to aides, the Judiciary Committee had advance notice of the remarks, but Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler’s team did not respond to requests for comment, and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff’s team declined to comment.
Trump’s 2020 team believes the matter is finished. “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s remarks today confirmed what we already knew. There was no collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and there was no case for obstruction. President Trump has been fully and completely exonerated. Mueller said his investigation is over,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement obtained by TIME.
As he wrote in his report, Mueller noted that investigators did not exonerate Trump, however. “If we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” he reiterated.
And Democrats still want Mueller to make an appearance.
At the very least, they believe that Mueller reiterating portions of the report in a Congressional appearance could be helpful in addressing Russian attempts to interfere in the election. Some also think that Mueller reiterating the point in his report that specified Congress could act on his findings would back up the potential for an impeachment inquiry.
“Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” Mueller’s report says.
With reporting by Alana Abramson