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Robert Muller Testifies Before Congress; Mueller: Trump Was Not Exonerated. Aired 9:30-10a ET
Aired July 24, 2019 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:30:00] CHABOT: In the 448-page Mueller report, was he?
MUELLER: Well, as I -- as I say, it's outside my purview and it's being handled in the department by others.
CHABOT: OK. Well, he -- he was not. In the 448 pages the -- the owner of Fusion GPS that did the Steele dossier that started all this, he -- he's not mentioned in there. Let me move on.
At the same time Fusion GPS was working to collect opposition research on Donald Trump from foreign sources on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, it also was representing a Russian-based company, Probison (ph), which had been sanctioned by the U.S. government. Are you aware of that?
MUELLER: It's outside my purview.
CHABOT: OK, thank you.
One of the key players in the -- I'll go to something different. One of the key players in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was Natalia Veselnitskaya, who you described in your report as a Russian attorney who advocated for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act. Veselnitskaya had been working with none other than Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS since at least early 2014. Are -- are you aware of that?
MUELLER: Outside my purview.
CHABOT: Thank you. But you didn't mention that or her connections to Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS in -- in your report at all. Let -- let me move on.
Now, NBC News has reported the following: quote, "Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya says she first received the supposedly- incriminating information she brought to Trump Tower describing alleged tax evasion and donation to Democrats from none other than Glenn Simpson, the Fusion GPS owner." You didn't include that in the report, and I assume you (inaudible).
MUELLER: This is a matter that's being handled by others at the Department of Justice.
CHABOT: OK, thank you.
Now, your report spends 14 pages discussing the June 9th, 2016 Trump Tower meeting. It would be fair to say, would it not, that you spent significant resources investigating that meeting?
MUELLER: Well, I'd refer you to the -- the report.
CHABOT: OK. And President Trump wasn't at the meeting...
MUELLER: No, he was not.
CHABOT: ... that (ph) you're aware of (ph)? Thank you.
Now, in stark contrast to the actions of the Trump campaign, we know that the Clinton campaign did pay Fusion GPS to gather dirt on the Trump campaign, from persons associated with foreign governments. But your report doesn't mention a thing about Fusion GPS in it, and you didn't investigate Fusion GPS' connections to Russia (ph).
So let me just ask you this. Can you see that from neglecting to mention Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS' involvement with the Clinton campaign, to focusing on a brief meeting at the Trump Tower that produced nothing, to ignoring the Clinton campaign's own ties to Fusion GPS, why some view your report as a pretty one-sided attack on the president?
MUELLER: Well, I'll tell you, this is still outside my purview.
CHABOT: All right. And I would just note, finally, that I guess it's just by chance, by coincidence that the things left out of the report tended to be favorable to the president?
NADLER: The gentleman's time has expired.
CHABOT: My time's expired.
NADLER: The gentleman from Georgia.
H. JOHNSON: Thank you.
Director Mueller, I'd like to get us back on track here. Your investigation found that President Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire you. Isn't that correct?
H. JOHNSON: And the president claimed that he wanted to fire you because you had supposed conflicts of interest, isn't that correct?
H. JOHNSON: Now, you had no conflicts of interest that required your removal, isn't that a fact?
H. JOHNSON: And in fact, Don McGahn advised the president that the asserted conflicts were, in his words, "silly and not real conflicts," isn't that true?
MUELLER: I refer to the report on that episode.
H. JOHNSON: Well, page 85 of Volume 2 speaks to that. And also, Director Mueller, DOJ ethics officials confirmed that you had no conflicts that would prevent you from serving as special counsel, isn't that correct?
MUELLER: That's correct.
H. JOHNSON: But despite Don McGahn and the Department of Justice guidance, around May 23, 2017, the president, quote, "Prodded McGahn to complain to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein about these supposed conflicts of interest," correct?
H. JOHNSON: And McGahn declined to call Rosenstein -- or Rosenstein, I'm sorry -- telling the president that it would look like still trying to meddle in the investigation and knocking out Mueller would be another fact used to claim obstruction of justice, isn't that correct?
MUELLER: Generally so, yes.
[09:35:00] H. JOHNSON: And in other words, Director Mueller, the White House Counsel told the president that if he tried to remove you that that could be another basis to allege that the president was obstructing justice, correct?
MUELLER: That is generally correct, yes.
H. JOHNSON: Now, I'd like to review what happened after the president was warned about obstructing justice. On Tuesday, June...
MUELLER: Do you have -- I'm sorry, Congressman. Do you have a citation for that?
H. JOHNSON: On -- yes. Volume 2, page 81.
MUELLER: Thank you.
H. JOHNSON: And 82.
Now, I'd like to review what happened after the president was warned about obstructing justice. It's true that on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, the president dictated a press statement, stating he had, quote, "no intention of firing" you, correct?
H. JOHNSON: But the following day, June 14, the media reported for the first time that you were investigating the president for obstructing of justice, correct?
MUELLER: That's correct.
H. JOHNSON: And then, after learning for the first time that he was under investigation, the very next day, the president, quote, "issued a series of tweets acknowledging the existence of the obstruction investigation, and criticizing it." Isn't that correct?
MUELLER: Generally so.
H. JOHNSON: And then, on Saturday, June 17, two days later, the president called Don McGahn at home from Camp David on a Saturday, to talk about you. Isn't that correct?
H. JOHNSON: What was the significant -- what was significant about that first weekend phone call that Don McGahn took from President Trump?
MUELLER: Well, I'm going to ask you to rely on what we wrote about those incidents.
H. JOHNSON: Well, you wrote in your report that on -- page 85, Volume 2, that on Saturday, June 17, 2017, the president called McGahn at home to have the special counsel removed. Now, did the president call Don McGahn more than once that day?
MUELLER: Well, I gave...
H. JOHNSON: I think it was two calls.
NADLER: Talk into the microphone (ph).
MUELLER: Oh, sorry about that.
H. JOHNSON: On page 85 of your report, you wrote, quote, "On the first call, McGahn recalled that the president said something like, quote, 'You've got to do this. You've got to call Rod.'" Correct?
H. JOHNSON: In your investigation and report found that Don McGahn was perturbed, to use your words, by the president's request to call Rod Rosenstein to fire him. Isn't that correct?
MUELLER: Well, there was a continuous call (ph) he (ph) -- I would -- no, it was a continuous involvement of Don McGahn...
H. JOHNSON: And (ph) he...
MUELLER: ... responding to the president's entreaties.
H. JOHNSON: And he did not want to put himself in the middle of that. He did not want to have a role in asking the attorney general to fire the special counsel, correct?
MUELLER: Well, I would, again, refer you to the report and the way it is characterized in the report. H. JOHNSON: Thank you. At Volume 2, page 85, it states that "he didn't
want to have the attorney general -- he didn't want to have a role in trying to fire the attorney general." So at this point -- I will yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Texas.
GOHMERT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Mueller -- well, first, let me ask unanimous consent, Mr. Chairman, to submit this article Robert Mueller unmasked for the record.
NADLER: Without objection.
GOHMERT: Now, Mr. Mueller, who wrote the nine-minute comments you read at your May 29th press conference.
MUELLER: I'm not going to get into that.
GOHMERT: OK. So that's what I thought. You didn't write it. A 2013 puff piece in The Washingtonian about Comey said basically, when Comey called, you'd drop everything you were doing.
Gave examples. You were having dinner with your wife and daughter, Comey calls, you'd drop everything and go. The article quoted Comey as saying if a train were coming down the track -- and I quote -- "at least Bob Mueller will be standing on the tracks with me."
You and James Comey have been good friends or were good friends for a -- for many years, correct?
MUELLER: No. We were business associates. We both started off at the Justice Department about the same (ph) time...
GOHMERT: You were good friends. You can work together and not be friends, but you and Comey were...
MUELLER: Yes, we were friends.
GOHMERT: ... friends.
MUELLER: We were friends.
GOHMERT: That's my question. Thank you for getting to the answer.
Now, before you were appointed as special counsel, had you talked to James Comey in the preceding six months?
[09:40:00] GOHMERT: When you were appointed as special counsel, was President Trump's firing of Comey something you anticipated investigating, potentially obstruction of justice?
MUELLER: I can't get into that. That's internal deliberations of the Justice Department.
GOHMERT: Actually, it goes to your credibility and maybe you've been away from the court room for a while, credibility is always relevant, it's always material and that goes for you, too. You're a witness before us.
Let me ask you, when you talked to President Trump the day before he appointed you -- or you were appointed as Special Counsel, you were talking to him about the FBI Director position again. Did he mention the firing of James Comey?
MUELLER: Not -- not as a candidate. I was asked ...
GOHMERT: Did he mention the firing of James Comey in your discussion with him?
MUELLER: Cannot remember.
MUELLER: Cannot remember. I don't believe so but I'm not going to be specific.
GOHMERT: You don't remember? But if he did, you could've been a fact witness as to the President's comments and state of mind on firing James Comey.
MUELLER: I suppose that's possible.
GOHMERT: Yeah. So most prosecutors want to make sure there was no appearance of impropriety, but in your case, you hired a bunch of people that did not like the President. Now let me ask you, when did you first learn of Peter Strzok's animus toward Donald Trump?
MUELLER: In the summer of 2017.
GOHMERT: You didn't know before he was hired?
MUELLER: I -- I'm sorry, what'd you ...
GOHMERT: You didn't know before he was hired for your team?
MUELLER: Know what?
GOHMERT: Peter Strzok hated Trump.
GOHMERT: You didn't know that before he was made part of your team, is that what you're saying?
MUELLER: I did not know that.
GOHMERT: All right. When did you first learn ...
MUELLER: ... when I did find out, I -- I acted swiftly to have him reassigned elsewhere in the FBI.
GOHMERT: Well there's some discussion about how swift that was. But when did you learn of the ongoing affair he was having with Lisa Page?
MUELLER: About the same time I ...
MUELLER: ... from Strzok.
GOHMERT: Did you ever order anybody to investigate the deletion of all of their texts off of their government phones?
MUELLER: Once we found that Peter Strzok was author of -- of ...
GOHMERT: Did you ever ...
MUELLER: May I finish?
GOHMERT: ... order -- well you're not answering my question. Did you order an investigation in the deletion and reformatting of their government phones?
MUELLER: No, there was an IG investigation ongoing.
GOHMERT: Listen, regarding collusion or conspiracy, you didn't find evidence of any agreement, and I'm quoting you, "among the Trump campaign officials and any Russia linked individuals to interfere with our U.S. election," correct?
GOHMERT: So you also note in the report that an element of any of those obstructions you referenced requires a corrupt state of mind, correct?
MUELLER: Corrupt intent, correct.
GOHMERT: Right. And if somebody knows they did not conspire with anybody from Russia to affect the election and they see the big Justice Department with people that hate that person coming after them, and then a Special Counsel appointed who hires a dozen or more people that hate that person and he knows he's innocent, he's not corruptly acting in order to see that justice is done, what he's doing is not obstructing justice, he is pursuing justice and the fact that you ...
NADLER: The gentleman's time ...
GOHMERT: ... ran it out two years means you ...
NADLER: Gentleman's time ...
GOHMERT: ... injustice, and I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman's time is expired, the witness may answer the question.
MUELLER: I take your question.
NADLER: The gentleman from Florida?
DEUTCH: Director Mueller, I -- Director Mueller, I'd like to get back to your findings covering June of 2017. There was a bombshell article that reported that the President of the United States was personally under investigation for obstruction of justice.
And you said in your report on page 90 of Volume 2, and I quote, "news of the obstruction investigation prompted the President to call McGahn and seek to have the Special Counsel removed," close quote. And then in your report you wrote about multiple calls from the President to White House Counsel Don McGahn.
And regarding the second call, you wrote, and I quote, "McGahn recalled that the President was more direct, saying something like call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be Special -- can't be the Special Counsel. McGahn recalled the President telling him Mueller has to go and call me back when you do it."
Director Mueller, did McGahn understand what the President was ordering him to do?
[09:45:00] MUELLER: I direct you to the -- what we've written in the report in terms of characterizing his feelings.
DEUTCH: And in the report it says quote "McGahn understood the President to be saying that the Special Counsel had to be removed." You also said on page 86 that quote "McGahn considered the President's request to be an inflection point and he wanted to hit the brakes and he felt trapped and McGahn decided he had to resign."
McGahn took action to prepare to resign, isn't that correct?
MUELLER: I direct you again to the report.
DEUTCH: And in -- in fact, that very day he went to the White House and quoting your report, you said quote "he then drove to the office to pack his belongings and submit his resignation letter," close quote.
MUELLER: That is -- that is directly from the report.
DEUTCH: It is. And before he resigned, however, he called the President's Chief of Staff, Reince Preibus, and he called the President's senior advisor, Steve Bannon. Do you recall what McGahn told them?
MUELLER: I -- whatever he -- was -- was said will -- will appear in the report.
DEUTCH: It is, it is, and it says on page 87 quote "Preibus recalled that McGahn said that the President asked him to do crazy expletive." In other words, crazy stuff. The White House Counsel thought that the President's request was completely out of bounds. He said the President asked him to do something crazy, it was wrong, and he was prepared to resign over it.
Now these are extraordinarily troubling events but you found White House Counsel McGahn to be a credible witness, isn't that correct?
DEUTCH: Director Mueller, the most important question I have for you today is why? Director Mueller, why did the President of the United States want you fired?
MUELLER: I can't answer that question.
DEUTCH: Well on -- on page 89 in your report on Volume 2, you said and I quote "substantial evidence indicates that the President's evident -- that the President's attempts to remove the Special Counsel were linked to the Special Counsel's oversight of investigations that involve the President's conduct, and most immediately to reports that the President was being investigated for potential obstruction of justice," close quote.
Director Mueller, you found evidence, as you lay out in your report, that the President wanted to fire you because you were investigating him for obstruction of justice. Isn't that correct?
MUELLER: That's what it -- it says in the report, yes, and I go -- I stand by in the report.
DEUTCH: Director Mueller, that shouldn't happen in America. No president should be able to escape investigation by abusing his power but that's what you testified to in your report. The president ordered you fired. The White House counsel knew it was wrong. The president knew it was wrong. In your report, it says there's also evidence the president knew he should not have made those calls to McGahn.
But the president did it anyway. He did it anyway. Anyone else who blatantly interfered with a criminal investigation, like yours, would be investigated and indicted on charges of obstruction of justice.
Director Mueller, you determined that you were barred from indicting a sitting president. We've already talked about that today. That is exactly why this committee must hold the president accountable.
I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back.
The gentlelady from Alabama?
ROBY: Director Mueller, you just said in response to two different lines of questionings that you would refer -- as it relates to this firing discussion that I would refer you to the report and the way it was characterized in the report.
Importantly, the president never said, fire Mueller or in the investigation. And one doesn't necessitate the other. And McGahn, in fact, did not resign; he stuck around for a year and a half.
On March 24th, Attorney General Barr formed the committee that he had received the special counsel's report and it was not until April 18th that the attorney general released the report to Congress and the public.
When you submitted your report to the attorney general, did you deliver a redacted version of the report so that he would be able to release it to Congress and the public without delay, pursuant to his announcement of his intention to do so during his confirmation hearing?
MUELLER: I'm not going to engage in a discussion about what happened after the production of our report.
ROBY: Had the attorney general asked you to provide a redacted version of the report?
[09:50:00] MUELLER: We worked on the redacted versions together.
ROBY: Did he ask you for a version where the grand jury material was separated?
MUELLER: I'm not going to get into details.
ROBY: Is it your belief that an unredacted version of the report could be released to Congress or the public?
MUELLER: That's not within my purview.
ROBY: In the Starr investigation of President Clinton, it was the special prosecutor who went to court to receive permission to unredact grand jury material, Rule 6(e) material. Why did you not take a similar action so Congress could view this material?
MUELLER: We had a process that we were operating on with the Attorney General's Office.
ROBY: Are you aware of any attorney general going to court to receive similar permission to unredact 6(e) material?
MUELLER: I'm not aware of that being done.
ROBY: The attorney general released the special counsel's report with minimal redactions to the public and an (ph) even lesser redacted version to Congress. Did you write the report with the expectation that it would be released publicly? MUELLER: No, we did not have an expectation. We wrote the report understanding that it was demanded by the statute and would go to the attorney general for further -- further review.
ROBY: And pursuant it to the special counsel regulations, who is the only party that must receive the charging decision resulting from the special counsel's investigation?
MUELLER: With regard to the president or generally?
ROBY: No, generally.
MUELLER: Attorney general.
ROBY: At Attorney General Barr's confirmation hearing, he made it clear that he intended to release your report to the public. Do you remember how much of your report had been written at that point?
MUELLER: I do not.
ROBY: Were there significant changes in tone or substance of the report made after the announcement that the report would be made available to Congress and the public?
MUELLER: I can't get into that.
ROBY: During the Senate testimony of Attorney General William Barr, Senate -- Senator Kamala Harris asked Mr. Barr if he had looked at all the underlying evidence that -- that the special counsel's team had gathered. He stated that he had not.
So I'm going to ask you, did you personally review all of the underlying evidence gathered in your investigation?
MUELLER: Well, to the extent that it came through the Special Counsel's Office, yes.
ROBY: Did any single member of your team review all the underlying evidence gathered during the course of your investigation?
MUELLER: As has been recited here today, a substantial amount of work was done, whether it be search warrants or -- or...
ROBY: My point is, is there was no one member of the team that looked at everything.
MUELLER: ... That's what I'm trying to get at.
ROBY: OK. It's fair to say that in an investigation as comprehensive as yours, it's normal that different members of the team would have reviewed different sets of documents and few, if anyone, would have reviewed all of the underlying?
MUELLER: Thank you, yes.
ROBY: How many of the approximately 500 interviews conducted by the Special Counsel's Office (ph) did you attend personally?
MUELLER: Very few.
ROBY: On March 27, 2019, you wrote a letter to the attorney general essentially complaining about the media coverage of your report. You wrote, and I quote, "The summery letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of this office's work and conclusions. We communicated that concern to the Department on the morning of March 25th. There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the result of our investigation."
Who wrote that March 27th letter?
MUELLER: Well, I -- I -- I can't get into who wrote it. The internal deliberations (ph)...
ROBY: But you signed it?
MUELLER: ... I -- what I will say is the letter stands for itself.
ROBY: OK. Why did you write a formal letter since you had already called the attorney general to express those concerns?
MUELLER: I can't -- I can't get into that, internal deliberations.
ROBY: Did you authorize the letter's release to the media or was it leaked?
MUELLER: I have no knowledge on either.
ROBY: Well, you went nearly two years without a leak. Why was this letter leaked?
MUELLER: I -- I -- well, I -- I can't get into it.
ROBY: Was this letter written and leaked for the expressed purpose of attempting to change the narrative about the conclusions of your report? And was anything in Attorney General Barr's letter referred to as principal conclusions...
NADLER: The time of the gentlelady...
ROBY: ... inaccurate?
NADLER: ... The time of the gentlelady is expired. The gentlelady...
ROBY: Can he answer the question, please?
MUELLER: And the question is?
NADLER: ... Yes, he may answer the question.
ROBY: Was anything in Attorney General Barr's letter referred to as the principle conclusions letter dated March 24th inaccurate?
MUELLER: Well, I am not going to get into that.
NADLER: The time of the gentlelady is expired.
The gentlelady from California?
BASS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Director Mueller, as you know, we are focusing on five obstruction episodes today. I would like to ask you about the second of those five obstruction episodes. It is in the section of your report beginning on page 113 of Volume 2, entitled, quote, "The President Orders McGahn to Deny that the President Tried to Fire the Special Counsel," end quote.
[09:55:00] On January 25th, 2018, The New York Times reported that, quote, "The president had ordered McGahn to have the Department of Justice fire you." Is that correct?
BASS: And that story related to the events you already testified about here today. The president's calls to McGahn to have you removed. Correct?
BASS: After the news broke, did the president go on TV to deny the story?
MUELLER: I do not know.
BASS: In fact, the president said, quote, "Fake news, folks. Fake news, a typical New York Times fake story," end quote. Correct?
BASS: But your investigation actually found substantial evidence that McGahn was ordered by the president to fire you. Correct?
BASS: Did the president's personal lawyer do something the following day in responses to that news report?
MUELLER: I'd refer you to the coverage of this in the report.
BASS: On page 114, quote, "On January 26th, 2018, the president's personal counsel called McGahn's attorney and said that the president wanted McGahn to put out a statement denying that he had been asked to fire the special counsel," end quote. Did McGahn do what the president asked?
MUELLER: I refer you to the report.
BASS: Communicating through his personal attorney, McGahn refused, because he said, quote, "That the Times story was accurate in reporting that the president wanted the special counsel removed." Isn't that right?
MUELLER: I believe it is, but I refer you again to the report.
BASS: OK. So Mr. McGahn, through his personal attorney, told the president that he is -- was not going to lie. Is that right?
BASS: Did the president drop the issue?
MUELLER: I refer to the write-up of this in the report.
BASS: OK. Next, the president told the White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to try to pressure McGahn to make a false denial. Is that correct?
MUELLER: That's correct.
BASS: What did he actually direct Porter to do?
MUELLER: And -- and I would send you back to the report.
BASS: OK. Well, on page 113 it says, quote, "The president then directed Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make it clear that the president never directed McGahn to fire you," end quote. Is that correct?
MUELLER: That is as it's -- it's stated in the report.
BASS: And you found, quote, "The president said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file for our records." Correct?
BASS: And to be clear, the president is asking his White House Counsel Don McGahn to create a record that McGahn believed to be untrue, while you were in the midst of investigating the president for obstruction of justice. Correct?
MUELLER: Generally correct.
BASS: And Mr. McGahn was an important witness in that investigation, wasn't he?
MUELLER: I'd have to say yes.
BASS: Did the president tell Porter to threaten McGahn if he didn't create the written denial?
MUELLER: I would refer you to the write-up of it in the report.
BASS: In fact, didn't the president say, quote, and this is on page 116, "If he doesn't write a letter, then maybe I'll have to get rid of him," end quote? MUELLER: Yes.
BASS: Did Porter deliver that threat?
MUELLER: I, again, refer you to the discussion that's found on page 115.
BASS: OK. But the president still didn't give up, did he? So the president told McGahn directly to deny that the president told him to have you fired. Can you tell me exactly what happened?
MUELLER: I can't beyond what's in the report.
BASS: Well, on page 116, it says the president met him in the Oval Office, quote, "The president began the Oval Office meeting by telling McGahn that The New York Times' story didn't look good and McGahn needed to correct it." Is that correct?
MUELLER: That's -- as it's written in the report, yes.
BASS: The president asked McGahn whether he would do a correction and McGahn said no. Correct?
MUELLER: That's accurate.
BASS: Well, Mr. Mueller, thank you for your investigation uncovering this very disturbing evidence. My friend, Mr. Richmond will have additional questions on the subject.
However, it is clear to me, if anyone else had ordered a witness to create a false record and cover-up acts that are subject of a law enforcement investigation, that person would be facing criminal charges. I yield back my time.
NADLER: The gentlelady yields back.
The gentlemen from Ohio?
JORDAN: Director, the FBI interviewed Joseph Mifsud on February 10th, 2017. In that interview, Mr. Mifsud lied. You point this out on page 193, Volume 1, Mifsud denied, Mifsud also falsely stated. In addition, Mifsud omitted. Three times, he lied to the FBI; yet, you didn't charge him with a crime. Why...
MUELLER: Excuse me -- are...
JORDAN: ... Why not?
MUELLER: ... did you say -- I'm sorry, did you say 193?
JORDAN: Volume 1, 193. He lied three times, you point it out in the report, why didn't you charge him with a crime?
MUELLER: I can't get into internal deliberations with regard to who or who would not be charged.