Mueller hearing opens amid Trump tweets blasting probe

By Roll Call 

‘We will follow your example, Director Mueller. We will act with integrity,’ Nadler says in opening remarks

Mueller hearing opens amid Trump tweets blasting probe

Former special counsel Robert Mueller arrives in the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday for his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He will testify later Wednesday before the House Intelligence Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The testimony of former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III — long the center of partisan debate in Washington — started with members of the House Judiciary Committee seeking a more measured tone.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, focused his statement on Mueller’s long career in public service to bolster the former FBI director as “a model of responsibility” who conducted the special counsel probe with “remarkable integrity.”

“We will follow your example, Director Mueller.  We will act with integrity,” Nadler said in prepared opening remarks.

We will follow the facts where they lead. We will consider all appropriate remedies. We will make our recommendation to the House when our work concludes.”

Nadler highlighted Mueller’s history as a Marine officer decorated for valor in Vietnam, his senior roles at the Justice Department and his stint as FBI director in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Mueller said he will not be able to answer questions about certain areas that are of public interest.

“For example, I am unable to address questions about the opening of the FBI’s Russia investigation, which occurred months before my appointment, or matters related to the so- called “Steele Dossier.” These matters are the subject of ongoing review by the Department. Any questions on these topics should therefore be directed to the FBI or the Justice Department.»

And Mueller said he would be leaning on the report. “In writing the report, we stated the results of our investigation with precision. We scrutinized every word,” Mueller said. “I do not intend to summarize or describe the results of our work in a different way in the course of my testimony today. As I said on May 29: the report is my testimony. And I will stay within that text.”

Mueller made clear he felt the nation’s focus should be on the security of democracy. “And let me say one more thing. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.”

Nadler started the questioning by taking on Trump’s often-repeated claims that the Mueller report “completely exonerated.”

“That’s not what the report states, is it?” Nadler asked.

“That is not what the report said,” Mueller said.

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

“No,” Mueller replied.

Nadler also focused on how Trump declined to be interviewed as part of the investigation, and instead submitted written answers to Mueller’s team.

“The president still refused to sit for an interview with you or your team?” Nadler said.

“True,” Mueller replied.

Nadler pointed out in his opening remarks that Mueller’s 22-month investigation netted 37 indictments and forfeitures of as much as $42 million “so that the cost of your investigation to the taxpayers approaches zero.”

The comments seemed directed at President Donald Trump, who said he wouldn’t be watching the testimony but tweeted attacks Wednesday before the hearing against Mueller and the House process.

“So why didn’t the highly conflicted Robert Mueller investigate how and why Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted and acid washed 33,000 Emails immediately AFTER getting a SUBPOENA from the United States Congress? She must have GREAT lawyers!” Trump tweeted. “Why didn’t Robert Mueller & his band of 18 Angry Democrats spend any time investigating Crooked Hillary Clinton, Lyin’ & Leakin’ James Comey, Lisa Page and her Psycho lover, Peter S, Andy McCabe, the beautiful Ohr family, Fusion GPS, and many more, including HIMSELF & Andrew W?”

The committee’s top Republican, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, foreshadowed his statement in an op-ed in the New York Times published Wednesday, writing that Democrats brought in a reluctant Mueller to answer questions about work he prefers to let “speak for itself”

“Because they’ve wasted six months trying to establish a conspiracy even the special counsel’s team couldn’t find,” Collins said. “Now their only hope is that Mr. Mueller will go rogue on C-Span.”

At the hearing, Collins stressed the same.

“Those are the facts of the Mueller report. Russia meddled in the 2016 election,” he said. “The president did not conspire with Russians. Nothing we hear today will change those facts.”

Collins also highlighted Republican concerns over the origins of the investigation into Trump, including an inspector general review of “how baseless gossip can be used to launch an FBI investigation against a private American citizen, and, eventually, a president.”

“Those results will be released, and we will need to learn from them to ensure government’s intelligence and law enforcement powers are never again turned on a private citizen or political candidate as a result of the political leanings of a handful of FBI agents,” Collins said.

Natalia Veselnitskaya — official website