Charging Donald Trump with a crime over Russian meddling in 2016 campaign was 'not an option' reveals Robert Mueller

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Penny Marshall

Robert Mueller has said charging Donald Trump with a crime following his investigation into the US President's links with Russia and his 2016 election campaign, was ''not an option''.

Mr Mueller, US Special Counsel, made his comments as he broke a two-year silence on his probe examining ties between Russia and Mr Trump.

His report also included the question of whether the President obstructed justice, but he said Department of Justice guidelines did not allow him to pursue Mr Trump any further.

However he emphasised that his report did not exonerate the Republican president.

  • Watch Robert Mueller make his first public statement about his investigation into Mr Trump's 2016 election links with Russia in full

In his first public statement addressing his controversial report, Mr Mueller also announced his resignation from the Justice Department on Wednesday so that he can "return to public life."

Mr Mueller said that "If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so."We did not however make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime."

He made clear there were "multiple, systematic efforts" to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that that "deserves the attention of every American."

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Penny Marshall

Following Mr Mueller's words, New Jersey senator Cory Booker said it was clear that: ''Congress has a legal and moral obligation" to initiate the impeachment process.

Jerrold Lewis Nadler, an American attorney and Democratic Party politician serving as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, added it falls to Congress to respond to the "crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump - and we will do so."

Mr Mueller himself has strongly indicated that Congress is the proper venue, not the criminal justice system, for deciding whether action should be taken against the President over allegations that Mr Trump and his aides obstructed the investigation.

  • Watch the moment Robert Mueller reveals why charging Donald Trump was ''not an option''

Mr Mueller's statement comes amid demands for Mr Mueller to give evidence on Capitol Hill about his findings and tension with attorney general William Barr over the handling of his report.

Mr Mueller spent 22 months examining whether Mr Trump’s presidential campaign conspired with Russia to sway the 2016 election result.

His investigation found there was no collusion.

However, the question of whether Mr Trump obstructed justice was not so clear-cut.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mueller said "it would be unfair" to potentially accuse someone of a crime when the person couldn't stand trial to defend himself.

A Justice Department legal opinion says sitting presidents cannot be indicted.

Mr Mueller's comments echoed the findings in his public report.

Mr Mueller's report revealed that President Donald Trump tried to seize control of the Russia probe and force Mr Mueller's removal to stop him from investigating a potential obstruction of justice by the Republican president.

Mr Trump has previously called the investigation a "witch hunt'' and could not resist tweeting shortly after Mr Mueller's statement to state: ''Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.''

In laying out Mr Mueller’s findings, US attorney general William Barr said the special counsel did not weigh in on the question.

Instead, Mr Barr ultimately made the call that Mr Trump did not violate the law - a move that drew criticism from Democrats who say the president is hardly in the clear.

The letter from US attorney general William Barr to congress on the conclusions reached by special counsel Robert Mueller. Credit: AP

Mr Barr has said he was surprised that Mr Mueller did not reach a conclusion, and decided with deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein that the evidence did not support an obstruction of justice allegation.

Mr Mueller, for his part, privately complained to Mr Barr that a four-page letter the attorney general wrote summarising his main conclusions did not adequately capture the investigation’s findings.

Mr Barr has called Mr Mueller’s letter “snitty”.

A senior White House official said “the White House was notified” on Tuesday night that Mr Mueller might make a statement on Wednesday.

US President Donald Trump. Credit: AP

Key points: Robert Mueller’s report into Donald Trump's 2016 campaign:

  • No collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia

  • No smoking gun on obstruction of justice, but no exoneration either

  • Barr made the decision over prosecuting obstruction

  • The bar for prosecution over collusion was high