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Robert Mueller testifies before US Congress

July 24, 2019

Robert Mueller answered questions from US lawmakers about his two-year investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election. He said President Donald Trump could be indicted when he leaves office.

US former Special Counsel Robert Mueller during the hearing
Image: Getty Images/AFP/C. Somodevilla

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller appeared before the US Congress on Wednesday for the first time to testify about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

His testimony had been widely anticipated by Democrats, who were hoping to have him say on the record that Trump was not exonerated of crimes and obstruction of justice.

Read more: Opinion: We don't need the Mueller report

What did Mueller say:

  • The probe found that Russia conducted "sweeping and systematic" interference in the 2016 election.
  • There was "insufficient evidence" to indicate that the Trump campaign conspired to work with Russia.
  • It was not clear whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice.
  • The president could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice crimes after he leaves office.
  • Trump was not indicted during the investigation because of his status as a sitting president.
  • Mueller denied Trump's claims that his investigation "totally exonerated" the president.
  • Mueller's testimony did not, though, give many Democrats what they most sought: a clear statement that that would lead to an impeachment effort.

Mueller defends investigation

Mueller told lawmakers during two hearings before the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee, which took a total of seven hours, that his team had conducted the 22-month-long investigation that ended in March in "a fair and independent manner," and the individuals who worked alongside him "were of the highest integrity."

He expressed his deep concern about the findings of his investigation. "Over the course of my career, I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government's effort to interfere with our election is among the most serious," Mueller said.

Trump reacts

The president took to Twitter before the hearings began to slam Mueller and Democrats. In a string of tweets, Trump said he was innocent and accused Democrats of carrying out a witch hunt.

"So Democrats and others can illegally fabricate a crime, try pinning it on a very innocent President, and when he fights back against this illegal and treasonous attack on our Country, they call It Obstruction? Wrong! Why didn't Robert Mueller investigate the investigators?" Trump wrote.

The president also expressed his dissatisfaction with Mueller having brought a "Never Trumper" — a term used for Republicans who oppose Trump — attorney to the committee hearing.

After Mueller's comments, Trump told journalists outside the White House that the Russia probe created a "phony cloud" over his administration and described the whole process as "nonsense."

He added that it had been a very good day for Republicans, a "devastating day" for the Democrats, before tweeting that truth is a force of nature -— in block capital letters.

Pelosi maintains measured approach

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the House of Representatives, indicated she was in no hurry in pushing for impeachment. She told journalists: "We want to have the strongest possible case, to make a decision as to what path we will go down."

Pelosi added: "We still have some outstanding matters in the courts."

She tweeted: "We are investigating to make sure that Americans have the truth and understand the gravity of the threat to our democracy. They must understand what Donald Trump is trying to cover up."

What happens next: The Justice Department considers the matter closed because the president won't be indicted. But Mueller's congressional appearance will likely deepen partisan divides on Capitol Hill and renew calls for the president's impeachment from some members of the Democratic party's base.

wmr, jcg, jsi/se (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)

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