Today’s the day.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller is testifying before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees about his report into Russian election interference and President Donald Trump.
Democrats were hopeful that Mueller’s testimony would serve as a green-light for the road to impeach POTUS, while Republicans were certain that Mueller’s findings will exonerate him.
The reality was somewhere in the middle; Mueller was mildly evasive and oftentimes vague with his answers, with many viewers claiming that lawmakers appeared to be more interested in the report than he was.
So, what do we know?
His Name Is… ‘No’
While a second hearing is currently underway, Mueller spent most of the first hearing declining to answer questions from members of congress — which he did at least 123 times — and referring them to the report when they brought up matters he didn’t feel like answering.
Dems could not get the former special counsel to endorse the idea they should pursue impeachment based on his report. When Rep. Mike Johnson brought up the subject Mueller said he was “not going to talk about that issue.”
Their exchange was as follows:
Johnson: Your report does not recommend impeachment. Does it?
Mueller: I’m not going to talk about recommendations.
Johnson: It does not conclude that impeachment would be appropriate here, right?
Mueller: I’m not going to talk about that issue.
Mmkay… thanks for nothing!
So… Crimes Or Nah?
While his report did detail the president’s attempts to muddy the investigation, including efforts to tamper with witnesses and fire the special counsel, Mueller declined to come to a conclusion about whether or not the president obstructed justice — citing DOJ policy not to indict a sitting president.
He even refused to explain what he wrote in the report about there being processes outside the criminal justice system for dealing with the misdeeds of the Commander-In-Chief. However, Mueller did acknowledge that an unsuccessful attempt to obstruct justice would still be a crime.
At the start of the second hearing, Mueller clarified that no assessment was made as to whether or not there was a crime because of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) guidance. He said:
“As we say in the report, and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the President committed a crime”
Basically, Mueller framed the entire obstruction investigation around the fact that he couldn’t bring any charges against Trump, even if he found hard evidence against him.
What Trump IS Guilty Of…
One of the few things Mueller was clear about was that Trump asked staff to falsify records related to the investigation.
The 448-page report detailed several cases in which Trump asked his aides to take actions that would have obstructed Mueller’s investigation, but claimed those efforts were unsuccessful because the aides refused POTUS’ orders.
Mueller confirmed these findings during a line of questioning by Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond.
Here is that exchange:
Richmond: So it’s fair to say the President tried to protect himself by asking staff to falsify records relevant to an ongoing investigation?
Mueller: I would say that’s generally a summary.
Richmond: Would you say that that action the President tried to hamper the investigation by asking staff to falsify records relevant to your investigation?
Mueller: I am just going to have to refer you to the report if I could for the review of that episode.
Richmond: Thank you. Also the President’s attempt to get McGahn to create a false written record were related to Mr. Trump’s concerns were related to President Trump’s concerns about your obstruction of justice inquiry, correct?
Mueller: I believe that to be true.
There Were Jokes!
Mueller made the committee erupt into laughter with a joke about congress.
The zinger came after Rep. Sylvia Garcia pondered what would happen if a lawmaker lied to his team during the investigation, asking him:
“What if I had made a false statement to an investigator on your team? Could I go to jail for up to five years?”
To which Mueller quipped:
“Yes. Although, it’s Congress, so.”
While the room broke out in laughter, Garcia continued on a serious note:
“Well, that’s the point, though, isn’t it? That No one is above the law. Not you. Not the Congress. And certainly not the President.”
Yes, Trump was Watching
Trump has weighed in on Twitter a few times since Mueller’s testimony began, and most of his tweets were unsurprisingly quoting Fox News.
Meanwhile, Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow said Mueller’s testimony shows “troubling deficiencies” in his investigation, explaining:
“The testimony revealed that this probe was conducted by a small group of politically-biased prosecutors who, as hard as they tried, we’re unable to establish either obstruction, conspiracy, or collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It is also clear that the special counsel conducted his two-year investigation unimpeded. The American people understand that this issue is over. They also understand that the case is closed.”
This seems like a bit of a reach, as Mueller defended his team from allegations of politics during his testimony. He said:
“And in those 25 years I have not had occasion, once, to ask somebody about their political affiliation. It is not done. What I care about is the capability of the individual to do the job and do the job quickly and seriously and with integrity.”
We’ll see if anymore tea comes from the second hearing. But, for now, Dems seem confident that impeachment is in play.
Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, ended her questioning by saying:
“This hearing has been very helpful to this committee as it exercises its constitutional duty to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the president… It now falls on us to hold President Trump accountable.”
Hopefully we’ll get more answers by the end of the next hearing… but we’re not holding our breath.
Watch the full first hearing (below) if you dare.
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