In his 10-minute public statement on the investigation into Russian interference in late May, Robert Mueller said, "The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress." That was largely the case, at least in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which began at 8:30am ET and wrapped up shortly after noon. He'll next move on to two hours of questioning by the House Intelligence Committee. The first session focused on Volume II of his report, which looks at whether the president obstructed justice; the Intelligence Committee will tackle Volume I, which zeros in on Russian interference. Among the big lines during his Judiciary Committee appearance:
- "It is unusual for a prosecutor to testify about a criminal investigation, and given my role as a prosecutor there are reasons why my testimony will necessarily be limited": specifically, in those cases when testimony could affect ongoing matters, and in cases where the Justice Department has asserted privilege regarding investigative information and decisions. "I therefore will not be able to answer questions about certain areas that I know of are of public interest" (such as the opening of the FBI's Russian investigation and the Steele dossier).
- "As I explained when we closed the special counsel's office in May, our report contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made ... we stated the results of our investigation with precision. I do not intend to summarize or describe the results of our work in a different way today."
- House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler began by asking Mueller whether his report "found there was no obstruction and that it completely and totally exonerated [Trump]. But that is not what your report said, is it?" Mueller's reply, per CNN: "Correct, that is not what the report said."
- Mueller confirmed that his team for more than a year tried to secure an interview with Trump. Nadler asked him, "And is it true that you and your team advised the president's lawyer that, quote, an interview with the president is vital to our investigation, closed quote?" Mueller answered in the affirmative.
- Mueller was asked by Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren whether his investigation determined that Russia saw it as more favorable if one of the candidates won. He answered yes, and specified, "It would be Trump," reports the AP.
- CNN flags what it says is the first time Mueller has refuted one of Trump's claims. Trump on Wednesday tweeted, "Mueller is saying that he did not apply and interview for the job of FBI Director (and get turned down) the day before he was wrongfully appointed Special Counsel. Hope he doesn't say that under oath in that we have numerous witnesses to the... ....interview!" Rep. Louie Gohmert brought up that conversation, saying, "You were talking to him about the FBI director position." Mueller's reply: "Not as a candidate." CNN's sources say Mueller was giving advice on making the director choice.
- Fox News reports Rep. Louie Gohmert ripped into Mueller for his hiring of FBI agent Peter Strzok. His most fiery line came later: "What [Trump is] doing is not obstructing justice; he is pursuing justice and the fact you ran [the investigation] out two years means you perpetuated injustice!""
- Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond asked several questions about Trump directing staffers to falsify records that were relevant to his probe. A standout exchange: "Also the President's attempt to get [former White House counsel Don] McGahn to create a false written record were related to Mr. Trump's concerns ... about your obstruction of justice inquiry, correct?" Mueller replied, "I believe that to be true."
- GOP Rep. Ken Buck asked whether Mueller believed that "you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?" Yes, said Mueller, repeating his earlier comment. He didn't say whether the president "should" be charged though, notes CNN.
- Mueller also offered a defense of his own report, saying, he doubts the lawmakers have reviewed "a report that is a thorough, as fair, as consistent as the report that we have in front of us."
- In what NBC News calls "one of the most striking attempts to undermine Mueller's integrity," GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko pointed out the number of times—more than 150 in total—Volume II of his report cited Washington Post, New York Times, and Fox News. "It looks like Volume II is mostly regurgitated press stories," Lesko said. "Honestly there's almost nothing in Volume II that I couldn't already hear or know by having a $50 cable news subscription."
- Democratic Rep. Val Demings asked whether "lies by Trump campaign officials and administration officials impeded your investigation." Mueller's reply: "I would generally agree with that."
- NBC News has a running count of the number of times Mueller deflected a question.
- Midway through Mueller's testimony, Trump tweeted this: "'This has been a disaster for the Democrats and a disaster for the reputation of Robert Mueller.' Chris Wallace @FoxNews."
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