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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

Go deeper

Senate confirms Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo as commerce secretary

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D). Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Senate voted 84-15 on Tuesday to confirm Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to lead the Commerce Department.

Why it matters: The agency promotes U.S. industry, oversees the Census Bureau, plays a key role in the government's study of climate change through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and evaluates emerging technology through the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Updated 39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions — Exclusive: Teenagers' mental health claims doubled last spring.
  2. Axios-Ipsos poll: Americans' hopes rise after a year of COVID
  3. Vaccine: J&J CEO "absolutely" confident in vaccine distribution goals — Vaccine hesitancy is shrinking.
  4. World: China and Russia vaccinate the world, for now.
  5. Energy: Global carbon emissions rebound to pre-COVID levels.
  6. Local: Florida gets more good vaccine newsMinnesota's hunger problem grows amid pandemic — Denver's fitness industry eyes a pandemic recovery.

Supreme Court likely to favor Republican-backed Arizona voting laws

A person walking outside of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 22.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday appeared to favor Republican-backed voting restrictions in Arizona that Democrats argue violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The Justices' decision in the case could weaken Section 2 of the VRA, which prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race.