After over two years of mostly avoiding the limelight, former special counsel Robert Mueller finally appeared before Congress on Wednesday morning to testify on his probe into Russian election interference and discuss President Donald Trump’s potential attempts to obstruct his investigation.
Mueller’s 8:30 a.m. hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, which lasted for over three hours, was mostly confined to testimony on Trump’s possible obstruction as outlined in Volume II of the special counsel’s report, while his appearance at around 1:00 p.m. before the House Intelligence Committee was largely reserved for questions on Kremlin election tampering in 2016, which were detailed in the first volume of Mueller’s 448 page investigation.
Naturally, Mueller’s confirmation that his report DID NOT exonerate Trump was a huge moment, and likely the lasting headline from the hearings. But we already knew that. Below are the other the top five moments from both portions of Mueller’s congressional testimony:
1. Mueller Explains He Didn’t Subpoena Trump ‘To Expedite the End of the Investigation’
During his House Intel testimony, Mueller was asked by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) why he failed to use his subpoena powers to compel Trump to interview with the special counsel’s office under oath.
“We negotiated with him for a little over a year, and I think what you alluded to in the appendix lays out our expectations as a result of those negotiations,” Mueller explained. “But finally, when we were almost toward the end of our investigation and we had little success to get the interview of the president, we decided that we did not want to exercise the subpoena power because on the necessity of expediting the end of the investigations.”
2. Mueller Says Trump Could Still Be Charged with Obstruction When He Leaves White House
After a line of questioning from Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) on if “the president [could be charged] with a crime after he left office,” Mueller replied with a simple, “Yes.”
“Ethically? Under the ethical standards?” Buck said in a follow-up.
“I’m not certain because I haven’t looked at the ethical standards,” Muller explained. “[The Office of Legal Counsel] opinion says that the prosecutor, while he cannot bring a charge against a sitting president, nonetheless, he can continue the investigation to see if there are any other persons who might be drawn into the conspiracy.”
The OLC opinion in question purports that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
3. Mueller Corrects Himself After Suggesting He Did Not Indict Trump Due to OLC Opinion
During his opening statement before the House Intel Committee, Mueller backtracked on comments he made to Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) during his morning testimony on why he did not charge the president with obstruction.
After noting that he did affirm to Lieu that the special counsel “did not charge the president because of the OLC opinion,” Mueller clarified those comments by saying, “That’s not the correct way to say it.”
“As we say in the report and I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime,” he added.
4. Mueller Warns Russian Election Interference is Happening Right Now
While being questioned by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) during the House Intel hearing, the lawmaker asked if Mueller agreed that “Russian active measures are growing with frequency and intensity, and including their expanded use of groups such as the IRA, and these groups pose a significant threat to the United States and our allies in upcoming elections.”
Mueller replied in the affirmative and added that “many more countries are developing the capability to replicate what the Russians have done.”
“Did you think that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our election?” Hurd continued. “Or did you find evidence to suggest they’ll try to do this again?”
“It wasn’t a single attempt, they’re doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign,” the former special counsel concluded.
5. Mueller Refuses to Engage With Republicans’ Questions on So-Called Steele Dossier
During Mueller’s opening remarks on Wednesday morning, he was quick to note that he cannot engage in questions related to the so-called Steele dossier, which Republicans have often criticized due to the Clinton campaign commissioning a former British spy to compile the oppo research file on Trump amid the 2016 election.
“[I] will not be able to answer questions on certain areas that I know are of public interest,” he began. “For example, I am unable to address questions about the initial opening of the FBI’s Russia investigation, which occurred months before my appointment or matters relate today the so-called Steele dossier.”
Later in the hearing, Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) pushed Mueller on the issue, saying, “You had two years to investigate. Not once did you deem it worth to investigate how an ‘unverified’ document that was paid for by a political opponent was used to obtain a warrant to spy on the opposition of a political campaign.”
“I do not accept your characterization of what occurred,” Mueller shot back.
Also during his Judiciary hearing, Mueller declined to answer questions related to the Steele dossier lobbed at him by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), which led the president’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to refer to Mueller as a “lap dog” for Democrats.
[image via SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images]
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