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

RCMP renew request for help finding missing Nakusp man

Christopher Sanford was reported missing Aug. 5

Mishap with deer sends biker to hospital

Accident Thursday morning near Slocan Park

Car rolls down Nelson highway embankment, driver injured

Vehicle landed beside the Rosemont pedestrian trail

Pregnant Kootenay teachers fight to change compensation rules

Risk to unborn babies not recognized by WorkSafeBC

PLACE NAMES: Salmo and Slocan neighbourhoods

An an 1897 plan called for Salmo streets named Lincoln and Washington plus a Victoria Square

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

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

Scene it? Castlegar New’s weekly photo contest

Take a guess in our weekly guess-the-location photo contest.

‘It’s just the freedom:’ Paralyzed Broncos player pursuing life on the water

The former Humboldt Broncos goaltender, who started in the net when he was nine, was paralyzed last year

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after B.C. Mountie’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Most Read