Updated May 29, 2019

Mueller: "We would have said" if confident Trump did not commit a crime

Robert Mueller after his public statement. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In his first on-camera public statement since he was appointed two years ago, special counsel Robert Mueller told the country: "If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so."

Why it matters: Mueller addressed the question of why his investigation did not charge President Trump with a crime for obstructing justice by essentially reiterating what was in his report: "[U]nder long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited."

  • "The Special Counsel's Office is part of the Department of Justice and, by regulation, it was bound by that Department policy. Charging the President with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider."

Between the lines: Mueller stated that the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel opinion says that "the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing." That process is Congress' power to impeach.

Other highlights:

  • Mueller announced that now that the investigation has ended, the Special Counsel's Office will close and he will resign from the Justice Department to return to private life.
  • He also addressed the question of whether he will testify before Congress. "No one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further. ... The report is my testimony. ... I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation."
  • Mueller also made clear the seriousness of an obstruction offense: "When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government's effort to strike at the truth and hold wrong doers accountable."

The bottom line, from Mueller, as he ended the press conference: "There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election, and that allegation deserves the attention of every American."

  • Our thought bubble: Mueller started and ended his statement with a reminder of Russia's systematic and fundamental assault on American democracy — a conclusion that the president has largely ignored or disputed.

Go deeper: Read the full transcript of Mueller's remarks

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Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump said Saturday he's considering a short-term quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut, which have already taken steps to help residents isolate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo reacted to Trump's comments by telling CNN, "This would be a federal declaration of war on states" and that it would cause "chaos."

The big picture: With more than 121,000 people infected, the U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy, per data from Johns Hopkins. A second wave of American cities, including Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia, are reporting influxes of cases.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 12 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7:30 p.m. ET: 660,706 — Total deaths: 30,652 — Total recoveries: 139,304.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 7:30 p.m. ET: 121,478 — Total deaths: 2,026 — Total recoveries: 1,072.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump is considering a quarantine on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters that supported Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are now balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Coronavirus updates: Deaths surge in Italy and Spain

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has since Friday killed 889 more people in Italy and 832 others in Spain, which announced all non-essential workplaces would close for two weeks.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 2,000 on Saturday in the U.S., which leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 121,000, per John Hopkins. The number of those recovered from the virus in the United States passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 50 mins ago - Health