During a surprise news conference on Wednesday, Robert Mueller publicly announced he is resigning as special counsel.
The resignation was to be expected. He was appointed by the Justice Department in 2017 for a specific purpose: to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. He submitted his team’s final 448-page report on their findings to Attorney General Bill Barr on March 22, and a redacted version was released to the public on April 18. Now, he says, his work is done.
“I’m speaking out today because our investigation is complete,” he said. “The attorney general has made the report on our investigation largely public. We are formally closing the special counsel’s office, and as well I’m resigning from the Department of Justice to return to private life. ... The office’s written work speak[s] for itself.”
Mueller’s mission — after being appointed when President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was previously overseeing the investigation — was to examine any links between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Over the span of two years, he indicted 34 people, five of whom were Trump’s former business and campaign staffers, along with 13 Russian nationals.
In his report, Mueller said there was not sufficient evidence to charge Trump’s campaign with conspiring with Russia’s government to interfere in the 2016 election. He added that he was unable to make a definite conclusion about obstruction because Justice Department policy forbids a sitting president being charged with a federal crime.
With Mueller’s resignation, the ball is now in Congress’s court to take action — if lawmakers think the 10 instances Mueller outlined in which Trump may have attempted to interfere with his investigation are worthy of impeachment. Several elected Democrats, including 2020 presidential contenders, are now saying that Congress has a legal obligation to impeach the president, as it is the only government body capable of holding him accountable.
But the political reality remains unchanged by Mueller’s public statement and resignation: Conservatives (other than Republican Rep. Justin Amash) have no interest in doing so.
In a statement following the news conference, press secretary Sarah Sanders emphasized Mueller’s point that the investigation is over. She reiterated that there was “no collusion, no conspiracy,” a line often repeated by the president. And in response to the mounting criticism that Attorney General William Barr failed to be impartial and is instead behaving as Trump’s personal lawyer, she added that Mueller had said the attorney general “acted in good faith.”
“After two years, the Special Counsel is moving on with his life, and everyone else should do the same,” she said in the statement.
Although calls for impeachment remain a fraught topic in the House, Mueller’s remarks Wednesday added new energy to the debate. Despite his resignation, the fallout from his findings is far from over.