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Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller To Testify Before Congress. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired July 24, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COLLINS: ... with any Russian official, Volume 2, page 76? Correct?
MUELLER: I will leave the answer to our report.
COLLINS: So that is a yes.
Is that any true your investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with Russian government in election interference activity, Volume 1, page 2; Volume 1, page 173?
MUELLER: Thank you. Yes.
COLLINS: Yes. Thank you.
Although your reports states, "collusion is not some (ph) specific offense," -- and you said that this morning -- "or a term of art in federal criminal laws, conspiracy is." In the colloquial context, are collusion and conspiracy essentially synonymous terms?
MUELLER: You're going to have to repeat that for me.
COLLINS: Collusion is not a specific offense or a term of art in the federal criminal law. Conspiracy is.
COLLINS: In the colloquial context, known public context, collusion -- collusion and conspiracy are essentially synonymous terms, correct?
COLLINS: If no, on page 180 of Volume 1 of your report, you wrote, "As defined in legal dictionaries, collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy as that crime is set forth in the general federal conspiracy statute, 18 USC 371."
MUELLER: Yes (ph).
COLLINS: You said at your May 29th press conference and here today you choose your words carefully. Are you sitting here today testifying something different than what your report states?
MUELLER: Well, what I'm asking is if you can give me the citation, I can look at the citation and evaluate whether it is actually...
COLLINS: OK. Let -- let me just -- let me clarify.
You stated that you would stay within the report. I just stated your report back to you, and you said that collusion -- collusion and conspiracy were not synonymous terms. That was your answer, was no.
MUELLER: That's correct.
COLLINS: In that, page 180 of Volume 1 of your report, it says, "As defined in legal dictionaries, collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy as that crime is set forth in general conspiracy statute 18 USC 371."
COLLINS: Now, you said you chose your words carefully. Are you contradicting your report right now?
MUELLER: Not when I read it.
COLLINS: So you would change your answer to yes, then?
MUELLER: No, no -- the -- if you look at the language...
COLLINS: I'm reading your report, sir. These are yes-or-no answers.
MUELLER: (inaudible) Page 180?
COLLINS: Page 180, Volume 1.
COLLINS: This is from your report.
MUELLER: Correct, and I -- I -- I -- I leave it with the report.
COLLINS: So the report says yes, they are synonymous.
COLLINS: Hopefully, for finally, out of your own report, we can put to bed the collusion and conspiracy.
One last question as we're going through: Did you ever look into other countries investigated in the Russians' interference into our election? Were other countries investigated...
COLLINS: ... or found knowledge that they had interference in our election?
MUELLER: I'm not going to discuss other matters.
COLLINS: All right. And I yield back.
NADLER: Gentleman yields back.
The gentlelady from California?
LOFGREN: Director Mueller, as you've heard from the chairman, we're mostly going to talk about obstruction of justice today, but the investigation of Russia's attack that started your investigation is why evidence that possible obstruction is serious.
To what extent did the Russian government interfere in the 2016 presidential election?
MUELLER: Could you repeat that, ma'am?
LOFGREN: To what extent did the Russian government interfere in the 2016 presidential election?
MUELLER: Well, at -- particularly when it came to computer crimes and the like, the government was implicated.
LOFGREN: So you wrote on -- in Volume 1 that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. You've also described in your report that the then-Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, shared with the Russian operative, Kilimnik, the campaign strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states and internal polling data of the campaign. Isn't that correct?
LOFGREN: They -- they also discussed the status of the Trump campaign and Manafort strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states.
Months before that meeting, Manafort had caused internal data to be shared with Kilimnik, and the sharing continued for a (inaudible) period of time after their August meeting. Isn't that correct?
LOFGREN: In fact, your investigation found that Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump campaign and Manafort's plan to win the election and that briefing encompassed the campaign's messaging, its internal polling data. It also included discussion of battleground states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. Isn't that correct?
MUELLER: That's correct.
LOFGREN: Did your investigation determine who requested the polling data to be shared with Kilimnik?
MUELLER: Well, I -- I would direct you to the report. That's what we have in the report with regard to that particular issue. LOFGREN: We -- we don't have the redacted version. That's maybe another reason why we should get that for Volume 1.
Based on your investigation, how could the Russian government have used this campaign polling data to further its sweeping and systematic interference in the 2016 presidential election?
MUELLER: That's a little bit out of our -- our path.
LOFGREN: Fair enough.
Did your investigation find that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from one of the candidates winning?
LOFGREN: And which candidate would that be?
MUELLER: Well, it would be Trimp -- Trump.
MUELLER: The president.
LOFGREN: Now, the Trump campaign wasn't exactly reluctant to take Russian help. You wrote it expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, isn't that correct?
MUELLER: That's correct.
LOFGREN: Now, was the investigation's determination -- what was the investigation's determination regarding the frequency with which the Trump campaign made contact with the Russian government?
MUELLER: Well, I would have to refer you to the report on that.
LOFGREN: Well, we went through and we counted 126 contacts between Russians or their agents and Trump campaign officials or their associates. So, would that sound about right?
MUELLER: I -- I can't say, I -- I -- I understand the statistic and I believe it. You know, I understand the statistic.
LOFGREN: Well, Mr. Mueller, I appreciate your being here and your report. From your testimony and the report, I think the American people have learned several things.
First, the Russians wanted Trump to win.
Second, the Russians went on a sweeping cyber influence campaign. The Russians hacked the DNC and they got the Democratic game plan for the election. Russian (sic) campaign chairmen met with Russian agents and repeatedly gave them internal data, polling and messaging in the battleground states.
So while the Russians were buying ads and creating propaganda to influence the outcome of the election, they were armed with inside information that they had stolen through hacking from the DNC and that they had been given by the Trump campaign chairman, Mr. Manafort.
My colleagues will probe the efforts undertaken to keep this information from becoming public, but I think it's important for the American people to understand the gravity of the underlying problem that your report uncovered.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I would yield back.
NADLER: The gentlelady yields back.
The gentleman from Texas, (inaudible)?
RATCLIFFE: Good morning, Director.
If you'll let me quickly summarize your opening statement this morning, you said in Volume 1 on the issue of conspiracy, the special counsel determined that the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
And then in Volume 2, for reasons that you explained, the special counsel did not make a determination on whether there was an obstruction of justice crime committed by the president.
Is that fair?
MUELLER: Yes, sir.
RATCLIFFE: All right.
Now, in explaining the special counsel did not make what you called a traditional prosecution or declination decision, the report, on the bottom of page 2, Volume 2, reads as follows: "The evidence we obtained about the president's actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
Now, I read that correctly?
RATCLIFFE: All right.
Now, your report -- and today, you said that at all times, the special counsel team operated under, was guided by and followed Justice Department policies and principles. So which DOJ policy or principle sets forth a legal standard that an investigated person is not exonerated if their innocence from criminal conduct is not conclusively determined?
MUELLER: Can you repeat the last part of that question?
Which DOJ policy or principle set forth a legal standard that an investigated person is not exonerated if their innocence from criminal conduct is not conclusively determined? Where does that language come from, Director? Where is the DOJ policy that says that?
Can -- let me make it easier. Is...
MUELLER: May -- can I -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
RATCLIFFE: ... can you give me an example other than Donald Trump, where the Justice Department determined that an investigated person was not exonerated...
MUELLER: I -- I...
RATCLIFFE: ... because their innocence was not conclusively determined?
MUELLER: I cannot, but this is a unique situation.
Well, I -- you can't -- time is short. I've got five minutes. Let's just leave it at, you can't find it because -- I'll tell you why: It doesn't exist.
The special counsel's job -- nowhere does it say that you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump's innocence, or that the special counsel report should determine whether or not to exonerate him. It not in any of the documents. It's not in your appointment order. It's not in the special counsel regulations. It's not in the OLC opinions.
It's not in the Justice Manual. And it's not in the Principles of Federal Prosecution.
Nowhere do those words appear together because, respectfully -- respectfully, Director, it was not the special counsel's job to conclusively determine Donald Trump's innocence or to exonerate him. Because the bedrock principle of our justice system is a presumption of innocence. It exists for everyone. Everyone is entitled to it, including sitting presidents. And because there is a presumption of innocence, prosecutors never, ever need to conclusively determine it.
Now, Director, the special counsel applied this inverted burden of proof that I can't find and you said doesn't exist anywhere in the department policies. And you used it to write a report.
And the very first line of your report, the very first line of your report says, as you read this morning, it "authorizes the special counsel to provide the attorney general with a confidential report explaining the prosecution of declination decisions reached by the special counsel." That's the very first word of your report, right?
MUELLER: That's correct.
RATCLIFFE: Here's the problem, Director: The special counsel didn't do that. On Volume 1, you did. On Volume 2, with respect to potential obstruction of justice, the special counsel made neither a prosecution decision or a declination decision. You made no decision. You told us this morning, and in your report, that you made no determination.
So respectfully, Director, you didn't follow the special counsel regulations. It clearly says, "Write a confidential report about decisions reached." Nowhere in here does it say, "Write a report about decisions that weren't reached."
You wrote 180 pages, 180 pages about decisions that weren't reached, about potential crimes that weren't charged or decided. And respectfully -- respectfully, by doing that, you managed to violate every principle in the most sacred of traditions about prosecutors not offering extra-prosecutorial analysis about potential crimes that aren't charged.
So Americans need to know this, as they listen to the Democrats and socialists on the other side of the aisle, as they do dramatic readings from this report: that Volume 2 of this report was not authorized under the law to be written. It was written to a legal standard that does not exist at the Justice Department. And it was written in violation of every DOJ principle about extra-prosecutorial commentary.
I agree with the chairman this morning, when he said, "Donald Trump is not above the law." He's not. But he damn sure shouldn't be below the law, which is where Volume 2 of this report puts him.
NADLER: The (inaudible) time has expired.
The gentlelady from Texas, Ms. Jackson (ph) Lee.
JACKSON LEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Director Mueller, good morning.
Your exchange with the gentlelady from California demonstrates what is at stake. The Trump campaign chair, Paul Manafort, was passing sensitive voter information and polling data to a Russian operative, and there were so many other ways that Russia subverted our democracy. Together with the evidence in Volume 1, I cannot think of a more serious need to investigate.
So, now, I'm going to ask you some questions about obstruction of justice as it relates to Volume 2.
On page 12 of Volume 2, you state, "We determined that there were sufficient factual and legal basis to further investigate potential obstruction of justice issues involving the president," is that correct?
MUELLER: And -- do you have a citation, ma'am?
JACKSON LEE: Page 12, Volume 2.
MUELLER: And which portion of that page?
JACKSON LEE: That is, "We determined that there was sufficient factual and legal basis to further investigate potential obstruction of justice issues involving the president," is that correct?
JACKSON LEE: Your report also describes at least 10 separate instances of possible obstruction of justice that were investigated by you and your team, is that correct?
JACKSON LEE: In fact, the table of contents serves as a very good guide of some of the acts of that obstruction of justice that you investigated. And I put it up on the screen.
On page 157 of Volume 2, you describe those acts. And they range from the president's effort to curtail the special counsel's investigation, the president's further efforts to have the attorney general take over the investigation, the president orders Don McGahn to deny that the president tried to fire the special counsel, and many others, is that correct?
JACKSON LEE: I direct you now to what you wrote, Director Mueller.
"The president's pattern of conduct as a whole sheds light on the nature of the president's acts and the inferences that can be drawn about his intent." Does that mean you have to investigate all of his conduct to ascertain true motive?
JACKSON LEE: And when you talk about the president's pattern of conduct, that include the 10 possible acts of obstruction that you investigated, is that correct?
When you talk about the president's pattern of conduct, that would include the 10 possible acts of obstruction that you investigated, correct?
MUELLER: I direct you to the report for how that is characterized.
JACKSON LEE: Thank you.
Let me go to the screen again. And for each of those 10 potential instances of obstruction of justice, you analyzed three elements of the crime of obstruction of justice: an obstructive act, a nexus between the act and official proceeding, and corrupt intent, is that correct?
JACKSON LEE: You wrote on page 178, Volume 2 in your report about corrupt intent, "Actions by the president to end a criminal investigation into his own conduct to protect against personal embarrassment or legal liability would constitute a core example of corruptly motivated conduct," is that correct?
JACKSON LEE: To the screen again. Even with the evidence you did find, is it true, as you note on page 76 of Volume 2, that, "The evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the president personally that the president could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to legal, personal and political concerns"?
MUELLER: I -- I rely on the language of the report.
JACKSON LEE: Is that relevant to potential obstruction of justice? Is that relevant to potential obstruction of justice?
JACKSON LEE: You further elaborate, on page 157, "Obstruction of justice can be motivated by a desire to protect non-criminal personal interests, to protect against investigations where underlying criminal liability falls into a gray area or to avoid personal embarrassment," is that correct?
MUELLER: I have on the screen a -- a ...
JACKSON LEE: Is that correct on the screen?
MUELLER: Can you -- can you repeat the question now that I have the language on the screen?
JACKSON LEE: Is it correct, as you further elaborate, "Obstruction of justice can be motivated by a direct desire to protect non-criminal personal interests, to protect against investigations where underlying criminal liability falls into a gray area..."
JACKSON LEE: "... or to avoid" -- is that true?
JACKSON LEE: And is it true that the impact -- pardon?
MUELLER: Can you read the last question?
JACKSON LEE: The last question was...
(CROSSTALK) MUELLER: ... certain I got it accurate.
JACKSON LEE: No, the last question was the language on the screen asking you if that's correct.
JACKSON LEE: OK.
Does a conviction of obstruction of justice result potentially in a lot of years of -- a lot of years of time in jail?
MUELLER: Yes. Well, again, can you repeat the -- the question just to make certain I have it accurate?
JACKSON LEE: Does obstruction of justice warrant a lot of time in -- in jail if you were convicted?
JACKSON LEE: And...
NADLER: The time of the gentlelady has expired.
The gentleman from Wisconsin?
SENSENBRENNER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Let me begin by reading the special counsel regulations by which you were appointed. It reads, quote "At the conclusion of the special counsel's work, he or she shall provide the attorney general with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declamations decisions reached by the special counsel," is that correct?
Now when a regulation uses the words "shall provide," does it mean that the individual is in fact obligated to provide what's being demanded by the regulation or statute, meaning you don't have any wiggle room, right?
MUELLER: I'd have to look more closely at the statute.
SENSENBRENNER: Well, I just read it to you.
OK, now Volume 2, page 1, your report boldly states, "We determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment," is that correct?
MUELLER: I'm trying to find that citation, Congressman.
NADLER: Director, could you speak more directly into the microphone, please?
MUELLER: Yes. NADLER: Thank you.
SENSENBRENNER: Well, it's Volume 2, page...
MUELLER: Mr. Chairman, I'm sorry.
SENSENBRENNER: Yeah, it's Volume 2, page 1. It says, "We determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment."
SENSENBRENNER: That's right at the beginning.
Now, since you decided under the OLC opinion that you couldn't prosecute a sitting president, meaning President Trump, why do we have all of this investigation of President Trump that the other side is talking about when you know that you weren't going to prosecute him?
MUELLER: Well, you don't know where the investigation's going to lie, and OLC opinion itself says that you can continue the investigation even though you are not going to indict the president.
SENSENBRENNER: OK, well if you're not going to indict the president then you just continue fishing. And that's -- you know, that's my -- my observation.
You know, sure -- sure you -- sure you -- my time is limited -- sure you can indict other people but you can't indict the sitting president, right?
MUELLER: That's true.
Now, there are 182 pages in raw evidentiary material, including hundreds of references to 302, which are interviews by the FBI for individuals who have never been cross-examined, and which did not comply with the special counsel's governing regulation to explain the prosecution or declamation decisions reached, correct?
MUELLER: Where are you reading from on that?
SENSENBRENNER: I'm reading from my question.
MUELLER: That -- could you repeat it?
If -- you have 182 pages of raw evidentiary material with hundreds of references to 302s who are -- never been cross-examined, which didn't comply with the governing regulation to explain the prosecution or declaration -- declination decisions reached. MUELLER: This is one of those areas which I decline to discuss...
SENSENBRENNER: OK, then let...
MUELLER: ... and would direct you to the report itself for what...
SENSENBRENNER: ... 182 pages of it.
You know, let me switch gears. Mr. Chabot and I were on this committee during the Clinton impeachment. Now, while I recognize that the independent counsel statute under which Kenneth Starr operated is different from the special counsel statute, he, in a number of occasions in his report, stated that the -- "President Clinton's actions may have risen to impeachable conduct, recognizing that it is up to the House of Representatives to determine what conduct is impeachable."
You never used the term "raising to impeachable conduct" for any of the 10 instances that the gentlewoman from Texas (inaudible) -- did. Is it true that there's nothing in Volume 2 of the report that says that the president may have engaged in impeachable conduct?
MUELLER: Well, we have (inaudible) kept in the -- the center of our investigation the -- our mandate. And our mandate does not go to other ways of addressing conduct, our mandate goes to what -- developing the report and putting the report in to the attorney general.
SENSENBRENNER: With due respect, you know, it -- it seems to me, you know, that there are a couple of statements that you made, you know, that said that, "This is not for me to decide," and the implication is this is -- this was for this committee to decide.
Now, you didn't use the word "impeachable conduct" like Starr did. There was no statute to prevent you from using the words "impeachable conduct." And I go back to what Mr. Ratcliffe said, and that is is that even the president is innocent until proven guilty.
I -- my time is up.
NADLER: The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Tennessee?
COHEN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First, I'd just like to restate that -- Mr. Nadler said about your career. It's a model of rectitude and I thank you.
MUELLER: Thank you, sir.
COHEN: Based upon your investigation, how did President Trump react to your appointment as special counsel?
MUELLER: He had a -- I -- I'd send you the report for where that is stated.
COHEN: Well, there is a quote from page 78 of your report, Volume 2, which reads: "When Sessions told the president that a special counsel had been appointed, the president slumped back in his chair and said, quote, 'Oh my God, this is terrible, this is the end of my presidency. I'm f-ed'," unquote.
Did Attorney General Sessions tell you about that little talk?
NADLER: Director, please speak into the microphone.
MUELLER: Oh, surely, my -- my apologies.
I am not certain of the -- the person who originally copied that quote.
COHEN: OK, well, Sessions apparently said it, and one of his aides had it in his notes too, which I think you had, but...
COHEN: ... but that's become record. He wasn't pleased. He probably wasn't pleased with the special counsel, and particularly you because of your outstanding reputation.
COHEN: Prior to your appointment, the attorney general recused himself from the investigation because of his role in the 2016 campaign. Is that not correct?
MUELLER: That's correct.
COHEN: Recusal means the attorney general could not be involved in the investigation. Is that correct?
MUELLER: That's the effect of recusal, yes.
COHEN: And so instead, another Trump appointee, as you know Mr. Sessions was, Mr. Rosenstein became in charge of it. Is that correct?
COHEN: Wasn't Attorney General Sessions following the rules and professional advice of the Department of Justice Ethics folks when he recused himself from the investigation?
COHEN: And yet, the president repeatedly expressed his displeasure at Sessions' decision to follow those ethics rules, to recuse himself from oversight of that investigation. Is that not correct?
MUELLER: That's accurate, based on what is written in the report. [09:25:00]
COHEN: And the president's reaction to the recusal, as noted in the report, Mr. Bannon recalled that the president was mad, as mad as Bannon had ever seen him, and he screamed at McGahn about how weak Sessions was. Do you recall that from the report?
MUELLER: That's in the report, yes.
COHEN: Despite knowing that Attorney General Sessions was supposed to be in -- was not supposed to be involved in the investigation, the president still tried to get the attorney general to un-recuse himself after you were appointed special counsel. Is that correct?
COHEN: In fact, your investigation found that at some point after your appointment, quote, "the president called Sessions at his home and asked if he would un-recuse himself." Is that not true?
MUELLER: It's true.
COHEN: Now, that wasn't the first time the president had asked Sessions to un-recuse himself, was it?
MUELLER: I know there were at least two occasions.
COHEN: And one of them was with Flynn, and one of them was when Sessions and McGahn flew to Mar-a-Lago to meet with the president. Sessions recalled that the president pulled him aside to speak alone and suggested he should do this un-recusal act, correct?
COHEN: And then when Michael Flynn, a few days after Flynn entered a guilty plea for lying to federal agents and indicated his intent to cooperate with that investigation, Trump asked to speak to Sessions alone again in the Oval Office, and again asked Sessions to un-recuse himself. True?
MUELLER: I'd refer you to the report for that.
COHEN: Page 109, volume 2. Thank you, sir.
Do you know of any point when the president personally expressed anger or frustrations at Sessions?
MUELLER: I'd have to pass on that.
COHEN: Do you recall, and I think it's at page 78 of volume 2, the president told Sessions, "You were supposed to protect me. You were supposed to protect me," or words to that effect?
COHEN: And is the attorney general supposed to be the attorney general of the United States of America, or the consiglieri for the president?
MUELLER: The United States of America.
COHEN: Thank you, sir. In fact, you wrote in your report that the president repeatedly sought to convince Sessions to un-recuse himself so Sessions could supervise the investigation in a way that was -- restrict its scope. Is that correct?
MUELLER: I'm relying on the -- on the report. (inaudible)
COHEN: How could Sessions have restricted the scope of your investigation?
MUELLER: Well, I'm not going to speculate. If he, quite obviously, if he took over or was (ph) attorney general, he would have greater latitude in his actions that would enable him to do things that otherwise he could not.
COHEN: On page 113, you said the president believed that an un-recused attorney general would play a protective role and conceal the president from the ongoing investigation.
Regardless of all that, I want to thank you, Director Mueller, for your life of rectitude and service to our country. It's clear from your report and the evidence that the president wanted former Attorney General Sessions to violate the Justice Department ethics rules by taking over your investigation and improperly interfering with it to protect himself and his campaign. Your findings are so important because in America, nobody is above the law.
I yield back the balance of my time.
NADLER: Thank the gentleman for yielding back.
The gentleman from Ohio.
CHABOT: Thank you.
Director Mueller, my Democratic colleagues were very disappointed in your report. They were expecting you to say something along the lines of he was (ph) -- why President Trump deserves to be impeached, much as Ken Starr did relative to President Clinton back about 20 years ago. Well, you didn't, so their strategy had to change. Now they allege that there's plenty of evidence in your report to impeach the president, but the American people just didn't read it. And this hearing today is their last best hope to build up some sort of groundswell across America to impeach President Trump. That's what this is really all about today.
Now a few questions: On page 103 of Volume 2 of your report, when discussing the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, you referenced, quote, "the firm that produced Steele reporting," unquote. The name of that firm was Fusion GPS. Is that correct?
MUELLER: And you're on page 103? CHABOT: 103 (ph), that's correct, Volume 2. When you talk about the -- the firm that produced the Steele reporting, the name of the firm that produced that was Fusion GPS. Is that correct?
MUELLER: Yeah, I -- I'm not familiar with -- with that. I (inaudible)
CHABOT: (inaudible) It's not -- it's not a trick question, right? It was Fusion GPS. Now, Fusion GPS produced the opposition research document wide -- widely known as the Steele dossier, and the owner of Fusion GPA (sic) was someone named Glenn Simpson. Are -- are you familiar with...
MUELLER: This is outside my purview.
CHABOT: OK. Glenn Simpson was never mentioned in the 448-page Mueller report, was he?