Former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThis week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Top Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction MORE will testify Wednesday in what is expected to be one of the more dramatic days on Capitol Hill in recent memory.
Democrats have been preparing for several days to grill Mueller on his findings about Russian interference, the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE’s efforts to thwart the investigation.
Their questions are expected to focus heavily on the details of Mueller’s 448-page report, which says he did not find enough evidence to charge members of the Trump campaign with conspiring with Russia and declines to exonerate the president on allegations of obstruction of justice.
Republicans, meanwhile, are expected to train their inquiries on the origins of the Russia investigation, casting it as a probe that was biased against Trump from the start.
Mueller is a reluctant witness and is testifying Wednesday under subpoena. He is unlikely to stray from the four corners of his report, even as lawmakers try to press him on his assessment of Trump’s conduct and his interactions with Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrGraham says he will call Papadopoulos to testify Pelosi, Democrats launch Mueller messaging blitz The Hill’s Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike MORE.
Mueller will appear for back-to-back hearings before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Follow our live coverage here.
Mueller says ‘true’ when asked about Trump’s attempts to remove him
Rep. Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Democrats lash out at Trump’s bombshell remarks Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote MORE (D-Ga.) pressed Mueller on the obstruction of justice episode the investigation examined in which Trump twice directed then-White House counsel Don McGahn to remove the special counsel.
When asked about the episode, Mueller responded about the account with a one word answer: “True.”
When asked whether it is correct to say he did not have conflicts of interest, Mueller also concisely replied: “That is correct.”
Trump told McGahn to have Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinKey numbers to know for Mueller’s testimony 10 questions for Robert Mueller What to expect when Mueller testifies: Not much MORE remove Mueller over allegations of conflicts of interest that top advisers deemed “silly” at the time. McGahn did not follow through with the order, and instead prepared to resign if pressured further.
Mueller’s answers also match Democrats’ fears ahead of the hearing that Mueller would provide short answers to their questions, preventing them from securing the former special counsel from describing the president’s conduct in his own words.
Sensenbrenner accuses Mueller of ‘fishing’ on Trump
Rep. Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerTech executives to take hot seat at antitrust hearing Big tech braces for antitrust crackdown 58 GOP lawmakers vote against disaster aid bill MORE (R-Wis.) grilled Mueller on his office’s statement that it “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” in his investigation Wednesday morning.
“Since you decided under the OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion that you couldn’t prosecute a sitting president … why did we have all this investigation of President Trump that the other side is talking about, when you knew that you weren’t going to prosecute him?” Sensenbrenner asked.
In response, Mueller said that the OLC opinion allows for an investigation to continue even if indictment of a sitting president is not permitted.
Sensenbrenner characterized any investigation that precluded an indictment of a sitting president as “fishing” and further claimed the report’s raw evidentiary material did not comply with statutes requiring an explanation of the prosecution or declination decision.
“This is one of those areas which I decline to discuss and would direct you to the report itself,” Mueller responded.
Jackson-Lee questions Mueller on incidents investigated for obstruction
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) pressed Mueller Wednesday on a series of incidents that were detailed in his report investigated for potential obstruction of justice from Trump.
Citing several quotes from the report’s second volume, including the table of contents, which she said “served as a very good guide,” Jackson-Lee ran down several of the incidents, including Trump directing then-White House counsel Don McGahn to lie about whether he had asked McGahn to dismiss Mueller midway through the investigation.
Jackson-Lee also questioned Mueller on the definition of “corrupt intent” under the law, with Mueller confirming that legally, obstruction of justice may be motivated by a desire to “protect non-criminal interests” or avert personal embarrassment. The special counsel also confirmed that obstruction can result in stiff jail sentences, in response to a question from Jackson-Lee.
Dems project Mueller quotes during testimony
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee projected quotes from Mueller’s report during the former special counsel’s testimony.
On screens set up in the hearing room, quotes were displayed from Mueller and his report that pertained to Democrats’ specific line of questioning.
For example, Mueller’s line that if his office “had confidence no crime occurred, we would have said so” appeared during Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler: DOJ directive to Mueller is part of ‘ongoing cover up’ from Trump administration Harris, Nadler introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana Why are we permitting federal child abuse at our border? MORE’s (D-N.Y.) questioning on whether Mueller’s team had exonerated Trump.
Dems are projecting the quotes from the Mueller report on the wall during hearing. pic.twitter.com/ZZLMLCpUO2
— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) July 24, 2019
And as Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenHouse Problem Solvers are bringing real change to Congress Al Green says impeachment is ‘only solution’ to Trump’s rhetoric Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) pressed Mueller on the investigation relating to Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortHow Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann’s offer to an oligarch could boomerang on DOJ Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Key numbers to know for Mueller’s testimony MORE, quotes from Mueller’s report about Manafort appeared on the screen.
Republicans break with seniority pattern, skip to skilled GOP cross-examiner
Republicans broke the pattern of having members question Mueller by seniority by having Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeRepublican lawmakers on why they haven’t read Mueller report: ‘Tedious’ and ‘what’s the point?’ Bipartisan Judiciary members request probe into gender discrimination allegations at FBI academy Hillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger MORE (R-Texas) follow after House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsPelosi, Democrats launch Mueller messaging blitz Mueller testimony could be frustrating for both parties 3,100 to be released from prison under criminal justice reform law MORE (R-Ga.).
Ratcliffe, who jumped ahead of four more-senior members, questioned Mueller about his non-exoneration decision.
The Texas Republican is a former U.S. attorney and federal terrorism prosecutor who is considered a star questioner among members of his conference.
Mueller addresses Russia’s 2016 influence operations
Mueller emphasized that the Russian government was specifically involved in trying to interfere in and influence the 2016 presidential election during questioning by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) this morning.
Lofgren asked Mueller what extent the Russian government interfered in 2016, with Mueller responding that “when it came to computer claims and the like, the Russian government was implicated.”
Mueller wrote in the report that Russians interfered in the 2016 elections in a “sweeping and systematic fashion.” The report specifically found that Russian actors hacked into the computer system of the Democratic National Committee, engineered a social media disinformation campaign that favored Trump and conducted “computer intrusion operations” against those working on Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton5 things to know about Boris Johnson Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota The Hill’s Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike MORE’s presidential campaign.
Lofgren used Mueller’s answers to call for the release of the un-redacted report in order to understand the full extent of Russian interference.
Lofgren, who has pushed for the passage of election security legislation in her role as the chair of the House Administration Committee, noted that she believed Americans were able to learn “several things about” Russian interference, including that the Russian government “wanted Trump to win,” and that Russians conducted a “sweeping cyber influence campaign.”
“I think it’s important for the American people to understand the gravity of the underlying problem that your report uncovered,” Lofgren said.
Mueller says Russians sought to help Trump campaign
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) pointedly asked Mueller which presidential campaign the Russians sought to help.
“Well, it would be Trump,” Mueller replied.
The Mueller report explicitly states that the Russians sought to hurt the Clinton campaign and help the Trump campaign. But her question allowed Democrats to capture the former special counsel stating for the cameras that the Russians favored one campaign over another.
Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the idea that Moscow sought to help him win in 2016.
Collins drills into Mueller on collusion aspects of report
House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) drilled into Mueller with specific questions as to whether his report established that Trump did not collude with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, leaving Mueller tripping over words at times.
Collins referenced specific pages of the report, asking Mueller to verify that the report established that Trump was not involved in the underlying crime in relation to Russian interference.
Mueller began to say that he found “insufficient evidence” to establish this, but Collins cut him off, saying he took Mueller’s response as a “yes.”
Collins promised Mueller that he would talk slowly, with Mueller later asking him to slow during questioning.
Laughter broke out in the room when Collins asked Mueller if he “did a lot of work,” with Mueller responding, “Yes, that I agree to.”
Collins specifically focused on a passage in the report that stated that the term “collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy.” Mueller at first hesitated to verify this portion of the report and glanced back at it before saying he would “leave it with the report.”
Mueller confirms Trump refused in-person interview
Mueller confirmed to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) that Trump had refused an in-person interview for Mueller’s investigation in testimony to the panel Wednesday morning.
“Is it true that you tried for more than a year to secure an interview with the president?” Nadler asked Wednesday, with Mueller responding in the affirmative. Mueller also confirmed that his office had described an interview with Trump as “vital to our investigation.”
Nadler further questioned Mueller on whether the written answers Trump submitted failed to address any of the special counsel’s questions relating to several episodes investigated for possible obstruction of justice, saying he would “have to check on that.”
Mueller also referred to a specific page of his report during the back-and-forth, the first time that he did so during his testimony. The special counsel has said that his report speaks for him, whereas Democrats have hoped to get Mueller’s findings in his own words.
—Zack Budryk and Jacqueline Thomsen
Mueller: My report did not exonerate Trump
During the first set of questions posed to Mueller, the former special counsel reiterated his report’s findings that his investigation did not exonerate Trump.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) noted that Trump and his surrogates have repeatedly stated that Mueller’s report completely cleared the president of any crimes, but Mueller — as his report notes — said that was not the case.
“The finding indicates that the president was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed,” Mueller said.
The former special counsel also pointed to a Department of Justice guidance that states a sitting president cannot be indicted as helping to guide his office’s decisionmaking.
Mueller is sworn in
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) swore in Mueller to testify truthfully. The former special counsel agreed to the oath, raising his right hand.
Collins says Trump’s suffered through Mueller investigation while knowing his ‘innocence’
House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) declared that Trump knew the “extent of his innocence” while allowing the investigation by Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to run its course.
“The president watched the public narrative surrounding the investigation assume his guilt while he knew the extent of his innocence,” Collins said in his opening statement on Wednesday.
Collins stressed that the results of the investigation have been known for months and added that he hoped the hearing would bring “closure” to the Mueller investigation and report process.
Collins emphasized that he hoped takeaways for members would include “increasing our vigilance against foreign election interference while we ensure our government officials don’t weaponize their power against the constitutional rights guaranteed to every United States citizen.”
Nadler praises Mueller in opening remarks, says he passed baton to Congress
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) strongly praised Mueller in his opening remarks, while pledging that Congress will continue his work to uncover the facts about the president’s conduct.
“Director Mueller, we have a responsibility to address the evidence you have uncovered. You recognized as much when you said ‘the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,’” Nadler told Mueller, noting that such works falls to the Judiciary Committee. “We will follow your example, Director Mueller. … We will make our recommendation to the House when our work concludes.”
In particular, Nadler said his committee must continue to examine whether the president obstructed justice by pointing to a Justice Department policy that argues a sitting president cannot be indicted, suggesting that the office of the presidency protected Trump from being charged.
Nadler also commended the former special counsel for remaining committed to his work and producing indictments in “astonishing” detail, despite “repeated and grossly unfair personal attacks.”
“You conducted that investigation with remarkable integrity,” Nadler told the former special counsel. “And, in your report, you offer the country accountability as well.”
The New York Democrat noted that Mueller secured criminal indictments against 37 people and entities, including paying for much of the cost of his 22-month investigation by recovering $42 million in his case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Mueller walked into the committee space at approximately 8:31 a.m., shaking hands with several Democratic lawmakers as he headed to his seat.
Cameras swarmed the former special counsel, who silently sat down.
Shortly after he arrived, a protester shouted that Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerHow Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann’s offer to an oligarch could boomerang on DOJ Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Trump: ‘We already started’ talks to get A$AP Rocky home from Sweden MORE and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort downloaded encrypted apps on the date of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. He was quickly removed by security.
Lawmakers begin to circulate
Several lawmakers were seen filing into the Judiciary Committee room about a half hour before the start of the hearing.
Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchIsrael vote will expose Democratic divisions Democrats look to capitalize on turmoil inside NRA Bipartisan group of lawmakers invites colleagues to tour DC’s Holocaust museum MORE (D-Fla.), Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzThe Hill’s Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: ‘We are going to reelect the president’ Matt Gaetz hints prosecutor won’t press charges against threatening caller for political reasons MORE (R-Fla.) and others were seen walking through the crowded hallway and making their way toward the room. Committee staffers were also seen bringing in posters — likely to serve as exhibits during the hearing.
Mueller also entered the building around 8 a.m. but hasn’t yet filed into the room.
Mueller hashtags trending on Twitter ahead of testimony
Multiple hashtags and phrases relating to the Mueller testimony, including #MuellerHearings, #MuellerTime, #MuellerTestifies, “Robert Mueller” and #MuellerDay were all trending on Twitter in the hour leading up to the hearing.
More than 12,000 people and institutions tweeted with the #MuellerHearings hashtag, including Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuTwo Democrats vow to press forward on Trump impeachment Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment House Democrat says he still gets told to ‘go back’ to China MORE (D-Calif.), comedian Dean Obeidallah and CNN contributor Steve Cortes, a member of Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council.
Dear @realDonaldTrump: Perhaps you didn’t read the Mueller report or don’t understand the crime of Obstruction of Justice. You should watch the #MuellerHearings. Starts at 8:30 am ET / 5:30 am PT this morning. https://t.co/Qmq7OoeSl5
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) July 24, 2019
Trump is so panicked he now asks Why didn’t Robert Mueller investigate himself?! Trump is truly freaking out this AM – it brings me such joy. Anyone else?! #MuellerHearings
— (((DeanObeidallah))) (@DeanObeidallah) July 24, 2019
— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) July 24, 2019
Mueller’s testimony is poised to dominate both social media and cable news all day on Wednesday, with multiple Washington, D.C.-based restaurants and bars holding special watch parties.
Long lines, high energy ahead of first hearing
The House Rayburn Office Building was buzzing with excitement hours before Mueller was set to arrive for his public testimony.
Members of the public who hoped to secure a seat at the highly anticipated House Judiciary Committee hearing had already formed long lines outside the security entrances by 6:30 a.m., an hour before the doors opened.
Inside, however, dozens of congressional staffers had staked out a spot in line. The first person waiting to get inside said they had spent the night to hold that spot, starting at 6 p.m.
Cameras and television crews lined the hallways as members of the public rushed to get in line after the doors opened.
Trump lashes out in final hours before testimony
Trump on Wednesday morning lashed out in frustration over Mueller’s testimony to Congress just hours before the former special counsel was set to appear on Capitol Hill.
The president tweeted multiple times about Mueller late Tuesday and early Wednesday, signaling his agitation with the highly anticipated public spectacle that could cast another cloud over his presidency.
“So Democrats and others can illegally fabricate a crime, try pinning it on a very innocent President, and when he fights back against this illegal and treasonous attack on our Country, they call It Obstruction?” Trump tweeted. “Wrong! Why didn’t Robert Mueller investigate the investigators?”
Leading up to the testimony, Trump has fixated on the late confirmation that one of Mueller’s top deputies will accompany him as an adviser during his testimony.
The president said late Tuesday that the move was “very unfair” and “should not be allowed” and on Wednesday asserted he would not have agreed to such terms. Trump’s approval is not needed for the committee’s hearing format.
“It was NEVER agreed that Robert Mueller could use one of his many Democrat Never Trumper lawyers to sit next to him and help him with his answers,” the president tweeted. “This was specifically NOT agreed to, and I would NEVER have agreed to it. The Greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. history, by far!”