WASHINGTON – Arizona lawmakers did not appear to be swayed Wednesday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s careful recap of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, with both Democrats and Republicans digging in to previous positions.
Mueller’s 9-minute statement at the Justice Department said his two-year investigation found “multiple, systematic efforts to interfere” in the presidential election, but “insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy” after looking at the Trump campaign’s response to those efforts.
On the question of whether the White House tried to obstruct his investigation, Mueller stressed that his office was operating under Justice Department policy that prohibits bringing federal criminal charges against a sitting president.
“As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” Mueller said. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
That was all the partisans needed to hear.
“Trump is not exonerated, and his administration is deliberately misleading the American people about the findings of the Special Counsel,” Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, said in a tweet. “If this isn’t a reason for an #ImpeachmentInquiryNow, I don’t know what is.”
But what Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, took away from Mueller’s statement is that the investigation is over and Democrats should move on.
“Robert Mueller did not find that the president obstructed justice,” Biggs said in a statement from his office. “The case is closed, and Democrats and the media should move on from their fascination with Russian Fairy Tales.”
Neither lawmaker’s statement was much different from their reactions in April, when the report was first released. And other members of the state’s congressional delegation followed suit.
Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally said she thinks “the American people are tired of this obstruction.”
“They are tired of the undermining that’s happening,” she said. “Going forward, I think they really want to see better unity, and they can make their voice heard at the ballot box.”
But Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, said through a spokesman that it’s critical “that Congress has a complete picture of the situation.
“Now that the Department of Justice’s investigation into this matter has concluded, Congressman O’Halleran looks forward to seeing the ongoing Congressional investigations completed in a transparent fashion,” said spokesman Cody Uhing.
Uhing said O’Halleran believes the Trump administration “must follow subpoenas” issued by Congress, something the White House has resisted.
But Trump tweeted Wednesday that nothing has changed between the report’s release and Mueller’s statement. “There was insufficient evidence and therefore in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed!”
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, agreed.
“Special Counsel Mueller reaffirmed today what we knew from his report: No collusion and no obstruction charges,” Lesko said in a statement. “This case is closed. It is time for Democrats to move on and finally focus on the real issues facing the American people.”
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, had the most-direct reaction: “Mueller needs to testify before Congress.”
Mueller, whose statement included an announcement that is formally resigning and returning to private life, said that if he is called to appear before Congress, his testimony “would not go beyond our report.”
“The report is my testimony,” he said of the two-volume, 448-page document. “We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself.”
– Cronkite News reporter Gabriella Khalaj contributed to this report from Phoenix.
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