Mueller testifies: I did not clear Trump of obstruction of justice

Former special counsel appeared before Congress about probe of Russia’s 2016 election interference

U.S. President Donald Trump is joined on stage with Turning Point USA Founder Charlie Kirk as he finishes speaking at Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, Tuesday, July 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Robert Mueller on Wednesday bluntly dismissed President Donald Trump’s claims of total exoneration in the federal probe of Russia’s 2016 election interference. The former special counsel told Congress he explicitly did not clear the president of obstructing his investigation.

The televised Capitol Hill appearance, Mueller’s first since wrapping his two-year Russia probe last spring, unfolded at a moment of deep divisions in the country, with many Americans hardened in their opinions about the success of Donald Trump’s presidency and whether impeachment proceedings are necessary.

Republicans and Democrats took divergent paths in questioning Mueller, with Trump’s GOP allies trying to cast the former special counsel and his prosecutors as politically motivated. Democrats, meanwhile, sought to emphasize the most incendiary findings of Mueller’s 448-page report and weaken Trump’s reelection prospects in ways that Mueller’s book-length report did not.

They hoped that even if his testimony did not inspire impeachment demands — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made clear she will not pursue impeachment, for now — Mueller could nonetheless unambiguously spell out questionable, norm-shattering actions by the president.

READ MORE: Hollywood A-listers perform live read of Mueller report

Yet Mueller by midday appeared unwilling or unable to offer crisp sound bites that could reshape already-entrenched public opinions.

He frequently gave terse, one-word answers to lawmakers’ questions, even when given opportunities to crystallize allegations of obstruction of justice against the president. He referred time again to the wording in his report or asked for questions to be repeated. He declined to read aloud hard-hitting statements in the report when prodded by Democrats to do so.

But he was unflinching on the most-critical matters.

In the opening minutes of the hearing, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, asked Mueller about Trump’s claims of vindication in the investigation.

“Did you actually totally exonerate the president?” Nadler asked.

“No,” Mueller replied.

Though Mueller described Russian government’s efforts to interfere in American politics as among the most serious challenges to democracy he had encountered in his decades-long career — which included steering the FBI after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — Republicans seized on his conclusion of insufficient evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“Those are the facts of the Mueller report. Russia meddled in the 2016 election,” said Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. “The president did not conspire with Russians. Nothing we hear today will change those facts.”

Mueller, pressed as to why he hadn’t investigated a “dossier” of claims that the Republicans insist helped lead to the start of the probe, he said that was not his charge.

That was “outside my purview,” he said repeatedly.

Though Mueller declared at the outset that he would be limited in what he would say, the hearings nonetheless carried the extraordinary spectacle of a prosecutor discussing in public a criminal investigation he conducted into a sitting U.S. president.

Mueller, known for his taciturn nature, warned that he would not stray beyond what had already been revealed in his report. And the Justice Department instructed him to stay strictly within those parameters, giving him a formal directive to point to if he faced questions he did not want to answer.

Trump lashed out early Wednesday ahead of the hearing, saying on Twitter that “Democrats and others” are trying to fabricate a crime and pin it on “a very innocent President.”

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, of N.Y., front right, arrives for a mock hearing on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, July 23, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Just Posted

Schroder pitches Team Canada to win over Dominican

Greater Trail native leads Team Canada to opening game win at Pan Am women’s baseball tournament

Keep motorized vehicles off Trans-Canada Trail

Government considers allowing off-road vehicles on Trans Canada Trail

West Kootenay EcoSociety opens new office in downtown Trail

Located on Eldorado Street, the new site opened last week

Tell the Times

Web Poll: Based on a popular news story locally or beyond

Ambitious plan to expand Salmo came to naught

Place Names: Salmo and Slocan neighbourhoods

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

U16 B.C. fastpitch team named national champs

Girls went undefeated at national tournament in Calgary

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

Canadian entrepreneurs turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profits

Some breweries turn to entrepreneurs looking to turn spent grain into treats for people and their pets

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

Most Read