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Robert Mueller Testimony: What We Learned So Far

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller appeared before the House Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees on Wednesday, publicly answering questions regarding his team’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election for the first time.

Known for his reticence, Mueller noted in his opening statement that his testimony would "necessarily be limited," adding that he would “not be able to answer questions about certain areas that I know are of public interest."  

Despite this, here’s what we learned from the House Judiciary Committee hearing so far.

The Mueller investigation did not exonerate President Trump

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler was the first to question Mueller. “Did you actually totally exonerate the president?” Nadler asked, to which Mueller flatly responded, “No.” 

He further noted that “the finding indicates that the president was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed.” 

This directly contradicts claims made by the president since the conclusion of the investigation. On March 24, Trump tweeted, “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1109918388133023744

He repeated these claims just hours before Mueller appeared before the committee, writing early Wednesday, “NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION!”

While Mueller couldn’t charge Trump, he could be prosecuted after leaving office

“Based on Justice Department policy and principles of fairness, we decided we would not make a determination as to whether the President committed a crime,” Mueller said in his testimony.

After making reference to these rules that state that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted, as “under OLC opinion...it would be unconstitutional,” Mueller noted that Nadler’s statement that “the President could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice crimes after he leaves office” was “true.” 

He did not detail whether Trump should be prosecuted.

Following a similar line of questioning from Rep. Ted Lieu, Mueller agreed that he did not indict Trump because of the OLC opinion.

Answering another question from Rep. David Cicilline as to whether “an unsuccessful attempt to obstruct is still a crime,” Mueller said, “true.”

Trump refused multiple requests for interview

Mueller answered in the affirmative to questions regarding whether Trump had refused a request to be interviewed by him and his team and that these attempts to secure an interview lasted for more than a year.

He also affirmed that Trump refused, despite him and his team telling Trump’s lawyer that “an interview with the President is vital to our investigation,” and that “it is the interest of the Presidency and public for an interview to take place.” 

The Russian government wanted a Trump victory

Rep. Zoe Lofgren asked Mueller if his investigation found that “the Russian government perceived it would benefit from one of the candidates winning.” When Mueller said yes, Lofgren asked “which candidate would that be?” to which Mueller replied, “it would be Trump.”

Mueller was not interviewing for the FBI Director position

Answering a question from Rep. Louie Gohmert about talking to Trump the day before he was appointed special counsel, Mueller said that he was not speaking with Trump “as a candidate” for the FBI Director position. 

This contradicts claims from Trump that Mueller had in fact interviewed for the position, a point he reiterated Wednesday morning in a tweet, writing, “It has been reported that Robert 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, including the Vice President of the United States!”

Mueller doesn’t not think Trump obstructed justice

In his time questioning Mueller, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries sought to establish that Trump’s actions met the three criteria to qualify as an obstruction of justice. 

"The investigation found substantial evidence that when the President ordered Don McGahn to fire the special counsel and then lie about it, Donald Trump, one, committed an obstructive act,” Jeffries said. “Two, connected to the initial proceeding. Three, did so with corrupt intent. Those are the elements of obstruction of justice.”

After Jeffries added that “no one is above the law,” Mueller replied that his analysis is “not out of the ballpark.” 

“I don't subscribe necessarily to your...to the way you analyze that. I’m not saying it’s out of the ballpark, but I'm not supportive of that analytical charge."

Lies impeded Mueller's investigation

Rep. Val Demings used her time to "talk about lies." Asking Mueller about whether he dealt with witnesses who didn't tell the truth, Mueller affirmed that there were some "not telling the whole truth and those who were outright liars."

Asked if "lies impeded the investigation," Mueller said, "I would generally agree with that.”

More Mueller testimony coverage from Fortune:

Trump goes on Twitter rant during Mueller testimony

—How 2020 Democrats responded to Mueller's testimony

Trump 2020 campaign using Mueller testimony to raise $2 million

—Read Robert Mueller's full opening statement

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