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CNN NEWSROOM

Robert Mueller Testifies On Capitol Hill. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 24, 2019 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00]

STEWART: Innocent people have been accused of very serious crimes, including treason, accusations made even here today. They have made their lives disrupted, and in some cases destroyed, for false accusations for which there is no basis other than some people desperately wish it was so.

But your report is very clear. No evidence of conspiracy, no evidence of coordination. And I believe we owe it to these people who have been falsely accused, including the president and his family, to make that very clear. Mr. Mueller, the credibility of your report is based on the integrity of how it is handled. And there's something that I think bothers me and other Americans.

I'm holding here in my hand a binder of 25 examples of leaks that occurred from the special counsel's office from those who associated with your work, dating back to as early as a few weeks after your inception of the beginning of your work and continuing to a few months ago.

All of these, all of them, have one thing in common. They were designed to weaken or embarrass the president, every one. Never was it leaked that you had found no evidence of collusion. Never was it leaked that the Steele dossier was a complete fantasy nor that it was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign. I could go on and on.

Mr. Mueller, are you aware of anyone on your team having given advanced knowledge of the raid on Roger Stone's home to any person or the press including CNN?

MUELLER: I'm not going to talk about specifics. I will mention or talk more a moment about persons who become involved in an investigation. And the understanding that in a lengthy, thorough investigation some persons will be under a cloud that should not be under a cloud. And one of the reasons for emphasizes as I have the speed of an election -- not election -- the speed of an investigation is that so those persons who are disrupted as a result of...

STEWART: I appreciate that. But I do have a series of questions.

MUELLER: ...with the result of that investigation.

STEWART: Thank you. And you're right, it is a cloud, and it's an unfair cloud for dozens of people. But to my point, are you aware of anyone providing information to the media regarding the raid on Roger Stone's home including CNN?

MUELLER: I'm not going to speak to that.

STEWART: OK. Mr. Mueller, you sent a letter dated March 27th to Attorney General Barr in which you acclaim the attorney general's comments did not capture the context of the report. You stated earlier today that response was not authorized. Did you make effort to determine who leaked this confidential letter?

MUELLER: No, and I'm not sure -- this is a letter of March 27?

STEWART: Yes, sir.

MUELLER: I'm not certain when it was publicized, I do know it was publicized. I do not believe we would be responsible for the leaks. I do believe we have done a good job in assuring that no leaks occur.

STEWART: We have 25 examples here of where you did not do a good job. Not you, sir. I'm not accusing you at all, but where your office did not do a good job protecting this information. One more example, do you know anyone who anonymously made claims to the press that Attorney General's Barr's March 24th letter to Congress had been misrepresented or misrepresented your basis of your report?

MUELLER: What was the question?

STEWART: Do you know who anonymously made claims to the press that Attorney General Barr's March 24th letter to Congress had misrepresented the findings of your report?

MUELLER: No.

STEWART: Sir, given these examples as well as others, you must have realized that leaks were coming from someone associated with the special counsel's office. What I'd like to ask...

MUELLER: I do not believe that.

STEWART: Well, sir, this was your work. You're the only one -- your office is the only one who had information regarding this. It had to come from your office. (R)MD+SD-- Putting that aside, which leads me to my final question, did you do anything about it?

MUELLER: From the outset, we've undertaken to make certain that we minimize the possibility of leaks, and I think we were successful over the two years that we were in operation.

STEWART: Well, I wish you had been more successful, sir. I think it was disriptive to the American people. My time is expired. I yield back.

SCHIFF: Mr. Quigley.

QUIGLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Director, thank you for being here. This, too, shall pass. Earlier today and throughout today you have stated the policy that a seated president cannot be indicted, correct? MUELLER: Correct.

QUIGLEY: And upon questioning this morning, you were asked could that -- could a president be indicted after their service, correct?

MUELLER: Yes.

QUIGLEY: And your answer was that they could.

MUELLER: They could.

SCHIFF: Director, please speak into the microphone.

MUELLER: I'm sorry. Thank you. They could.

QUIGLEY: So the follow up question that should be concerning is what if a president serves beyond the statute of limitations?

MUELLER: I don't know the answer to that one.

QUIGLEY: Would it not indicate that if the statute of limitations of federal crimes such as this are five years that a president who serves a second terms is therefore under the policy, above the law?

[14:05:00] MUELLER: I'm not certain I would agree with the -- I'm not certain I would agree with the conclusion. I'm not certain that I can see the possibility that you suggest.

QUIGLEY: But the statute doesn't toll, is that correct?

MUELLER: I don't know specifically.

QUIGLEY: It clearly doesn't. I just want -- as the American public is watching this and perhaps learning about many of these for the first time, we need to consider that and that the other alternatives are perhaps all that we have, but I appreciate your response.

Earlier in questioning, someone mentioned that it was a question involved whether anyone in the Trump political world publicized the emails whether or not that was the case.

I just want to refer to Volume 1, page 60 where we learned that Trump Jr. publicly tweeted a link to the leak of stolen (inaudible) emails in October of 2016. You familiar with that?

MUELLER: I am.

QUIGLEY: So that would at least be a republishing of this information, would it not?

MUELLER: I'm not certain I would agree -- I'm not certain I would agree with that.

QUIGLEY: Director Pompeo assessed WikiLeaks in one point as a hostile intelligence service. Given your law enforcement experience and your knowledge of what WikiLeaks did here and what they do generally, would you assess that to be accurate or something similar? How would you asses what WikiLeaks does?

MUELLER: Absolutely. And they are currently under indictment as Julian Assange is (ph).

QUIGLEY: Would it be fair to describe them as you would agree with Director Pompeo -- that's what he was when he made that remark -- that it's a hostile intelligence service, correct?

MUELLER: Yes.

QUIGLEY: If we could put up slide six. "This just came out... WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks," Donald Trump, October 10, 2016, "This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart, you gotta read it," Donald Trump, October 12, 2016. "This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove," Donald Trump, October 31, 2016. "Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks," Donald Trump, November 4, 2016. Do any of those quotes disturb you, Mr. Director?

MUELLER: I'm not sure I would say...

QUIGLEY: How do you react?

MUELLER: Well, problematic is an understatement in terms of what it displays, in terms of (inaudible) some, I don't know, hope or some boost to what is and should be illegal activity.

QUIGLEY: Volume 1, page 59. Donald Trump Jr. had direct electronic communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign period. On October 3, 2016, WikiLeaks sent another direct message to Trump Jr. asking you guys to help disseminate a link alleging candidate Clinton had advocated a drone to attack Julian Assange. Trump Jr. responded that, quote, "he had already done so." Same question. Is behavior at the very least disturbing? Your reaction?

MUELLER: Disturbing and also subject to investigation.

QUIGLEY: Would it be described as aid and comfort to a hostile intelligence service, sir?

MUELLER: I wouldn't categorize with any specificity.

QUIGLEY: I yield the balance to the chairman, please.

SCHIFF: I'm not sure I can make good use of 27 seconds but, Director, I think you made it clear that you think it unethical, to put it politely, to tout a foreign service like WikiLeaks publishing stolen political documents of presidential campaign?

MUELLER: Certainly calls for investigation.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Director. We're going to go now to Mr. Crawford, and then after Mr. Crawford's five minute, we'll take a five or 10 minute break.

CRAWFORD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Mueller, for being here. Days after you appointment, Peter Strzok texted about his concern that there's, quote, "no big there there in the Trump campaign investigation." Did Strzok or anyone else who worked on the FBI's investigation tell you that around 10 months into the investigation the FBI still had no case for collusion?

[14:10:00] MUELLER: Who -- can you repeat that?

CRAWFORD: Peter Strzok.

MUELLER: OK, do you -- I'm sorry. Can you move the microphone a little closer?

CRAWFORD: Sure.

MUELLER: Thank you.

CRAWFORD: There's a quote attributed to Peter Strzok. He texted about his concern that there is, quote, "no big there there in the Trump campaign investigation." Did he or anyone else who worked on the FBI's investigation tell you that around 10 months into the investigation the FBI still had no case for collusion?

MUELLER: No.

CRAWFORD: Is the inspector general report correct that the text messages from Peter Strzok and Lisa Page's phones from your office were not retained after they left the Special Counsels Office?

MUELLER: No. I don't -- it depends on what you're talking about. An investigation into those -- Peter Strzok went on for a period of time, and I'm not certain what it encompasses, and they will have encompassed what you're referring to.

CRAWFORD: OK, let me move on just real quickly. Did you ask the department to authorize your office to investigate the origin of the Trump Russia investigation?

MUELLER: I'm not going to get into that. It goes into internal deliberations.

CRAWFORD: So the circumstances surrounding the origin of the investigation have yet to be fully vetted then. I'm certainly glad that Attorney General Barr and U.S. Attorney Derum (ph) are looking into this matter. With that, I'd like to yield the balance of my time to the Ranking Member Nunes.

NUNES: I think the gentleman for yielding. Mr. Mueller, I want to make sure you're aware of who Fusion GPS is. Fusion GPS is a political operations firm that was working directly for the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democrat National Committee. They produced the dossier, so they paid Steele who then went out and got the dossier.

And I know you don't want to ask - answer any dossier questions, so I'm not going there, but your report mentions Natalia Veselnitskaya 65 times. She meets in the Trump Tower. It's this infamous Trump Tower meeting that's in your report. You've heard many of the Democrats refer to it today. The meeting was shorter than 20 minutes, I believe. Is that correct?

MUELLER: I think what we have in our report reflects it was about that length.

CRAWFORD: So, do you know -- so, Fusion GPS, the main actor of Fusion GPS, the president of the company or owner of the company is a guy named Glenn Simpson who's working for Hillary Clinton. Glenn Simpson -- do you know how many times Glenn Simpson met with Natalia Veselnitskaya?

MUELLER: Myself? No.

CRAWFORD: Would it surprise you that the Clinton campaign dirty ops arm met with Natalia Veselnitskaya more times than the Trump campaign did?

MUELLER: This is an area I'm not going to get into as I indicated at the outset.

CRAWFORD: Did you ever interview Glenn Simpson?

MUELLER: I'm again going to pass on that.

CRAWFORD: According to -- I'm going to change topics here. According to notes from the State Department Official Kathleen Kavalec, Christopher Steele told her that former Russian intelligence head Trubnikov and Putin adviser Surkov, were sources for the Steele dossier. Now, knowing that these are not getting into whether these sources were real or not real, was there any concern that there could have been disinformation that was going from the Kremlin into the Clinton campaign and then being fed into the FBI?

MUELLER: As I said before, this is an area that I cannot speak to.

CRAWFORD: Is that because you're -- it's not in the report or because...

MUELLER: It's deliberations, other proceedings, and the like.

CRAWFORD: When Andrew Weissmann and Zainab Ahmad joined your team, were you aware that Bruce Ohr, Department of Justice top official, directly briefed the dossier allegations to them in the summer of 2016.

MUELLER: Again, I'm not going to speak to that issue.

CRAWFORD: OK. Before you arrested George Papadopoulos in July of 2017, he was given $10,000 in cash in Israel. Do you know who gave him that cash?

MUELLER: Again, that's outside our questions. Such as that, you go to the FBI or department.

CRAWFORD: But it involved your investigation.

MUELLER: It involved persons involved in my investigation. MUELLER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SCHIFF: We will stand a recess for five or ten minutes. Please, folks, remain in your seats. Allow the director , Mr. Zebley to exit the chamber.

[14:14:51] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So, the first half of the second part of this set day has now concluded at an hour and 15 minutes or so. The -- very interesting that Robert Mueller, Jake opened up by trying to clarify what he had earlier said in the day in response to Congressman Ted Lieu of California in response to a question from Ted Lieu.

[14:15:10] BLITZER: The question being, "You did not indict Donald Trump, is that because of the OLC -- the Office of Legal Counsel opinion stating that you could not indict a sitting President, correct?

Mueller said, "That is correct." He opened up this statement today by saying that was not the correct way to phrase it. He said, as we say in the report, and as I said, at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the President committed a crime.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes and in fact, I think we have that if we want to roll tape. This is Robert Mueller clarifying something that he said that gave the mistaken impression that they would have definitively indicted President Trump had it not been for the OLC memo.

That's not what he wanted to say. That's not the impression he wanted to leave. So we're going to play it for you. The first thing he said to Ted Lieu in the earlier hearing that left the wrong impression, and then the cleanup which just happened moments ago. Let's roll tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TED LIEU (R-CA): So to recap what we've heard -- we have heard today that the President ordered former White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire you. The President ordered Don McGahn to then cover that up and create a false paper trail. And now we've heard the President ordered Corey Lewandowski to tell Jeff Sessions to limit your investigation, so that he -- you stop investigating the President.

I believe a reasonable person looking at these facts, could conclude that all three elements of the crime of obstruction of justice have been met. And I like to ask you the reason again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting President, correct?

ROBERT MUELLER, RUSSIA PROBE'S SPECIAL COUNSEL: That is correct.

I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu, who said and I quote, "You didn't charge the President because of the OLC opinion." That is not the correct way to say it, as we say in the report. And as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the President committed a crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So a clean up there. It seemed as though in the earlier hearing that Robert Mueller had said something the Democrats were excited about. But he walked it back, and he's back where the report is, which is to say that before they could even make a conclusion about whether or not they thought the President obstructed justice, they knew that they would not be able to indict him, so they never even reached the conclusion.

But there was some news and some illumination that took place during the beginning of the House Intelligence Committee hearing. At the very top of it, the Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, from California, asked some probing questions, basically trying to make the case that even if there was no prosecutable evidence of conspiracy between the Trump team and the Russia, there were things that happened that were wrong, take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): And during the course of this Russian interference in the election, the Russians made outreach to the Trump campaign, did they not?

MUELLER: That occurred over the course of -- yes, that occurred.

SCHIFF: It's also clear from your report that during that Russian outreach to the Trump campaign, no one associated with the Trump campaign ever called the F.B.I. to report it, am I right?

MUELLER: I don't know that for sure.

SCHIFF: In fact, the campaign welcomed the Russian help, did they not?

MUELLER: I think we have -- we report in our -- in the report, indications of that occurred. Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Gloria Borger, let me bring you in here. So again, not illegal.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No.

TAPPER: But not good news, not what President Trump and his team want to be out there on television

BORGER: That's right. And he went on later to say that he believes it's the responsibility of political campaigns to inform the F.B.I. if they get this kind of communication from a foreign government offering help. So he did go there. One other thing that I thought was kind of pushing the envelope here

for Bob Mueller at least, I think it was more forceful on the Russian interference in a way than he was this morning. But when he was read by Congressman Quigley, the President's tweets and transcribing what the President said about WikiLeaks' I love you and all and all the rest.

And Mueller was asked, "Well, what did you think about that?" And Mueller said, problematic is an understatement. And then when Schiff brought it up again -- Schiff being the prosecutor here, Schiff brought it up again and asked about it, and Mueller called these communications disturbing and it's also subject to investigation. Which I think is kind of interesting, because it's the first time we've heard him sort of take on the President and say that was completely out of line and problematic.

TAPPER: And but Evan, again, he is making the case that they didn't not find anything that they could have prosecuted in terms of actual tangible evidence of conspiracy with Russia.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right and again, there's there is an evidentiary standard that they have to reach here.

[14:20:10] PEREZ: And I think that's where the issue lies, right, for politicians who want to win and want to win elections, and in some cases want to win at all costs. The question is, what happened in 2016 and does this report -- does it make it okay for future campaigns to do this again?

And I think that's where Mueller is having a little trouble. I think you're seeing him go a little beyond what frankly, I thought he would do, where he said, programmatic is an understatement. I think he's trying to -- I think you heard that from him. Certainly, when he made that that press statement, the nine-minute statement that I think he believes the Volume 1, and the findings here are the things -- are the things where he wants us to all focus on.

But at the same time, obviously, it wasn't enough to bring charges against anyone as a conspiracy charge or anything like that. But I think he wants to tell people that this is not okay. And I think that's what he wants people to take away from today --

WOLF: Like Christopher Wray, the F.B.I. Director said, if someone comes to a campaign from a foreign government, especially a hostile for foreign government, that says we have information on your opponent that could be very helpful to you, you should immediately call the F.B.I.

PEREZ: And I think that's an important thing, because a lot of the Republicans on this panel today are not going to say that. Nobody wants to say that, because nobody wants to certainly incur the wrath of the President, or to say that the 2016 election was illegitimate, which, you know, obviously, and no one can really make that assertion here. But I think that's where the President gets most unnerved. And that's what drives so much of his reaction. JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That the President is on

the record saying, he might do it again, if offered help. So that's why the Republicans don't want across him. But I think this is where there's been a lot of questioning about why does Robert Mueller not answer these questions? Why is he been halting in some ways? Why does he seem unfamiliar at times with his own report?

You know, it is a voluminous is report. He was the CEO of the operation, if you will, but other people are questioning, you know, is he all there, if you will. Where he has been most passionate is on questions about the credibility of the investigation and the credibility of his team. He has defended the people on his team, saying he hired the best of the best who are experts. And on this issue here, you know, Donald Trump, Jr. took this meeting.

Of course, we investigated that. George Papadopoulos came back and told people in the campaign, the Russians had e-mails and they were willing to help us. Of course, we investigated that. The President of the United States is tweeting, he said, "It's giving hope or a boost to illegal activity." The President's constant tweets, "I love WikiLeaks."

What else does WikiLeaks have? I love really -- Bob Mueller saying, of course, we would look into that knowing that WikiLeaks is a hostile act. And this is where he has been the most passionate on, we did this for a reason. We had every right to do it, because the Republicans are trying to say you shouldn't have been here to begin with.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And to go back to the clarification that President -- I'm sorry that Director Mueller made about why they did not indict President Trump. That's something the Democrats had gotten excited about.

They thought that this was big news for a good reason. And we all noted it at the lunch break, because the idea that there was proof of a crime committed by the President, and the only reason it was not prosecuted by Robert Mueller was because of the Justice Department position that you can't indict a sitting President. That's what he said to Ted Lieu. He came back and walked that back.

So I mean, it's not like we made it up that it was a big deal. It was a big deal.

PEREZ: And Ted Lieu's question by the way, was you could not be clearer.

BORGER: Very clear.

TOOBIN: Yes, by the way, clear.

TAPPER: In his clean up, Mueller blamed Ted Lieu.

TOOBIN: Actually, yes. TAPPER: He said, that's not the correct way to say it. He said Mr.

Lieu said, and I quote, "You didn't charge the President because of the OLC opinion," that is not the correct way to say it? Well, it's a question. I mean --

TOOBIN: Right.

TAPPER: The thing that was incorrect, was what -- Mueller's answer.

WOLF: But Laura, he did say a few times -- Mueller, that after the President leaves office, after he's no longer a sitting President, potentially assuming statute of limitations has not run out. He could be indicted.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he actually talks about it is in his report. The idea to preserve evidence, the need to preserve evidence, the knowledge that he had the OLC opinion that said -- yes, you can't indict a sitting President even if you'd investigate, you never know where it's going to actually lead. And the notion that you can actually indict somebody who's no longer the President of United States.

All that says to me, that Mueller cleaned it up, it was a walk back about 1,000 yards, by the way.

TAPPER: Yes.

COATES: When he did so, he was essentially saying, look, you can lead a horse to water, but I can't make it drink. I just outlined 11-- what? Instances of why there was obstruction of conduct. I'd let you know about whether you should have illegal activity associated with this activity. I can't physically say to you the last bit that says, yes, you should act. I have got an OLC opinion, I am completely hamstrung by it.

So it was that -- essentially saying, I'm not going to take it that far and reiterate it again. Here's a green light. What else do you need? If you want to actually say to investigate the President of the United States, Representative Lieu and everyone else, the ball is in your court.

TAPPER: What do you think has been the most important so far?

JIM BAKER, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL OF THE FBI: Well, I agree. I mean, I think that the Mueller report and I think the way he's comporting himself here, he has served up to the Judiciary Committee, the men -- the meal. All they have to do is eat it.

[14:25:06] BAKER: The facts are there, they can interpret the various acts of -- alleged acts of obstruction and then take action on it.

It's what I'm thinking about today is, the Watergate roadmap, that the Watergate prosecutors gave to Congress. And that is -- it's very sparse. It's not very long. And it's devoid of commentary at all. It's just fact after fact, after fact, and the House Judiciary Committee back in '74, was able to interpret it, figure out what was problematic and then act.

WOLF: But I think the contrast to Watergate is so interesting here because with Watergate, you didn't have Leon Jaworski, or Archibald Cox -- the prosecutors as the witnesses. You had the actual witnesses and that's what's missing here. You're missing Don McGahn.

BAKER: Numbers are missing going down --

WOLF: Members are beginning to come back into the hearing room. We expect this hearing to resume momentarily, but Kaitlan Collins is over at the White House. You got some new reporting. Kaitlan, what are you learning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, we're being told that the President is still keeping a close eye on this hearing. He's going to be watching the second one closely. But we're seeing essentially a shift in the change in the President's attitude.

This morning and the days before this, he started out so irritated about the idea of Robert Mueller going on Capitol Hill and testifying. But now we're told, after watching that hearing this morning, the President's mood has changed from one of agitation to one where he feels more triumphant. Though aides that are still watching closely to see what it is, Robert Mueller may say during the second hearing.

WOLF: And we will be hearing -- I assume we'll be hearing, Kaitlan, from the President during the 4:00 p.m. Eastern hour when he walks out of the South Lawn of the White House to Marine One. He's off to West Virginia later tonight for a political fundraiser.

TAPPER: We're still --

COLLINS: The President -- yes, he's going to be leaving here soon. They are still keeping a close eye. One thing we should note, the President's ally from Capitol Hill, Mark Meadows, that member of the Freedom Caucus, who is sitting in behind Robert Mueller this morning during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee just showed up here at the White House a short time ago.

The President is now in the West Wing watching all of this unfold. Earlier this morning. He was in the residence watching most of that first hearing get underway. But we will see the President in about an hour and a half or so when he does leave the White House to go to that fundraiser in West Virginia.

The first thing that has been on the President's public schedule all day, and that's likely we will get that first reaction where, judging by White House officials and the President's allies have been telling us, right now, he feels pretty good about how the outcome of this hearing has gone.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. And you see, former Special Counsel, former F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller reentering the hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building, and we're going to take it live. The second part of the House Intelligence Committee hearing with Robert Mueller about the Mueller report. Let's listen in.

(SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT MUELLER HEARING ON CAPITOL HILL)

[14:30:10]