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Robert Mueller told a US congressional hearing that he had not exonerated President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice

Robert Mueller told a US congressional hearing that he had not exonerated President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice

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Mueller has affirmed that a president can be charged with crimes after leaving office, The Associated Press reported. Mueller, answering questions publicly for the first time on his inquiry, also defended the integrity of his investigation as he appeared for eagerly anticipated testimony at the first of two back-to-back televised congressional hearings that carry high stakes for Trump and Democrats who are split between impeaching him or moving on to the 2020 election.

The former FBI director, who spent 22 months investigating what he concluded was Russian interference in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” in the 2016 US election to help Trump and the president’s conduct, appeared first before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. The committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerrold Nadler, praised Mueller and said no one, including Trump, is “above the law.”

But Trump’s Republican allies on the committee tried to paint Mueller’s investigation as unfair to the president, with Louie Gohmert heatedly telling him “you perpetuated injustice” and conservative congressman Guy Reschenthaler calling the manner in which the inquiry was conducted “un-American.”

Mueller’s 448-page report, released in redacted form on April 18, did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump committed the crime of obstruction of justice in a series of actions aimed at impeding the inquiry, but did not exonerate him.

Democratic Representative Ted Lieu asked Mueller if the reason he did not bring a criminal indictment against Trump was the Justice Department’s longstanding policy crafted by its Office of Legal Counsel against bringing criminal charges against a sitting president.

“That is correct,” Mueller said.

Trump has claimed that the Mueller inquiry resulted in the president’s “complete and total exoneration.”

“Did you actually totally exonerate the president?” Nadler asked Mueller.

“No,” Mueller replied.