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)

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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)

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

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. (File photo)
Wolf Creek and Wetaskiwin school boards ‘reasurred’ by letter from LaGrange

Boards urge the Alberta government to honour commitmens to Indigenous peoples

Loki’s Car Club hosting its first annual holiday toy drive. File photo.
Loki’s Car Club hosting its first annual holiday toy drive

Local Wetaskiwin businesses set up as toy drive drop off locations.

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta now has 17,743 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

A home on Montana First Nation was damaged by fire in the early hours on Dec. 2, 2020. (Chevi Rabbit/Submitted)
House fires on Montana Cree Nation under investigation

Two separate fires took place in the early hours of Dec. 2

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Most Read