- The former special counsel Robert Mueller appeared before Congress on Wednesday for a blockbuster hearing on his findings in the FBI’s Russia investigation.
- Mueller’s team was conspicuously silent during its 22-month-long investigation of Russia’s election interference, whether members of President Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow, and if Trump sought to obstruct justice throughout the course of the probe.
- Wednesday’s hearing is the second time Mueller has spoken out publicly about the investigation.
- Scroll down for live updates.
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The former special counsel Robert Mueller appeared before Congress on Wednesday for a historic hearing on his findings in the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election, and whether President Donald Trump sought to obstruct justice throughout the course of the investigation.
According to a lightly redacted version of Mueller’s report that was released to the public in April, Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to charge Trump or anyone on his campaign with conspiracy related to Russia’s meddling.
He declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on whether Trump obstructed justice, but his team emphasized that if they had confidence the president did not commit a crime, they would have said so.
Mueller’s report also implied that the remedy for accusing a sitting president of wrongdoing does not come from the Justice Department, but from Congress.
Since then, congressional Democrats have launched a sprawling effort to investigate Trump for potential wrongdoing, and Democratic aides told INSIDER this week that their main objective with Wednesday’s hearing is to drum up public support for Trump’s impeachment.
Scroll down for live updates from the hearing:
GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe tears into Mueller and says he applied an unfair legal standard to Trump.
Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe, a former prosecutor, used his speaking time to rip Mueller’s decision — or lack thereof — on the obstruction question.
In his report, Mueller said that he did not make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on whether Trump obstructed justice because of a 1973 DOJ policy that states a sitting president cannot be indicted.
But Ratcliffe slammed prosecutors for highlighting that they if they were confident Trump did not commit a crime, they would have said as much. He also implied that Mueller’s team applied an unfair legal standard to the president.
“Because there is a presumption of innocence,” Ratliffe said, “prosecutors never, ever need to conclusively determine it.”
Mueller replied, “This is a unique situation,” adding that that was why he couldn’t exonerate the president.
But Ratcliffe interrupted the former special counsel and said Mueller’s entire volume on obstruction of justice was not authorized or appropriate.
Mueller says he will not address questions about the origins of the Russia probe or the Steele dossier.
Mueller also emphasized that he will not address questions related to the origins of the Russia investigation or the so-called Steele dossier, an explosive collection of memos alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
“The report is my testimony, and I will stay within the text,” Mueller said.
He added, “I will not comment on the actions of the attorney general or of congress. I was appointed as a prosecutor, and I intend to adhere to that role and the department standards that govern it.”
Mueller: “My staff and I carried out this assignment with that critical objective in mind: to work quietly, thoroughly, and with integrity so that the public would have full confidence in the outcome.”
Mueller began his opening statement by establishing that his investigation was conducted thoroughly and fairly.
“My staff and I carried out this assignment with that critical objective in mind: to work quietly, thoroughly, and with integrity so that the public would have full confidence in the outcome,” he said.
Republicans say they will use the hearing to question Mueller about the origins of the Russia investigation.
Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member on the committee, hinted that Republicans will use the hearing to question Mueller about the origins of the Russia investigation.
The DOJ’s inspector general is also currently investigating the matter, and Attorney General William Barr said earlier this year that the results of that investigation will be released sometime this summer.
“Those results will be released, and we will need to learn from them to ensure the government’s intelligence and law enforcement powers are never again turned on a private citizen or political candidate as the result of the political leanings of a handful of FBI agents,” Collins said.
Mueller got into a tense exchange with Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who accused Mueller of “perpetuating injustice” by investigating Trump.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, also a strong Trump ally, gave a fiery monologue in his questioning of Mueller questioning why he didn’t charge Joseph Mifsud for lying to the FBI.
Rep. Matt Gatez of Florida, also a strong Trump ally, gave energetic and animated questioning of Mueller about the Steele dossier, which Mueller explained did not factor into his investigation.
Gaetz also questioned Mueller on his brief hiring of former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was the subject of an internal investigation for exchanging anti-Trump texts with FBI lawyer Lisa Page and left the Mueller team after the texts were discovered.
In response to a question from Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Mueller confirmed that he could indict Trump with a crime after he left office, and that an unsuccessful attempt to obstruct justice is “still a crime.”