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Mueller Testimony at House Intelligence Committee Continues. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired July 24, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NUNES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, everyone, to the last gasp of the Russia collusion conspiracy theory.
As Democrats continue to foist this spectacle on the American people, as well as you, Mr. Mueller, the American people may recall the media first began spreading this conspiracy theory in the spring of 2016, when Fusion GPS, funded by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign, started developing the Steele dossier, a collection of outlandish accusations that Trump and his associates were Russian agents.
Fusion GPS, Steele and other confederates fed these absurdities to naive or partisan reporters and to top officials in numerous government agencies, including the FBI, the Department of Justice and the State Department. Among other things the FBI used dossier allegations to obtain a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign.
Despite acknowledging dossier allegations as being salacious and unverified, former FBI Director James Comey briefed those allegations to President Obama and President-elect Trump. Those briefings conveniently leaked to the press, resulting in the publication of the dossier and launching thousands of false press stories based on the word of a foreign ex-spy, one who admitted he was desperate that Trump lose the election and who was eventually fired as an FBI source for leaking to the press.
After Comey himself was fired, by his own admission, he leaked derogatory information on President Trump to the press for the specific purpose, and successfully so, of engineering the appointment of a special counsel who sits here before us today.
The FBI investigation was marred by further corruption and bizarre abuses. Top DOJ official Bruce Ohr, whose own wife worked on Fusion GPS' anti-Trump operation, fed Steele information to the FBI even after the FBI fired Steele.
The top FBI investigator and his lover, another top FBI official, constantly texted about how much they hated Trump and wanted to stop him from being elected.
And the entire investigation was open based not on Five Eyes intelligence, but on a tip from a foreign politician about a conversation involving Joseph Mifsud. He's a Maltese diplomat who's widely portrayed as a Russian agent, but seems to have for more connections with Western governments, including our own FBI and our own State Department, than with Russia.
Brazenly ignoring all these red flags as well as the transparent absurdity of the claims they are making, the Democrats have arguing for nearly three years that evidence of collusion is hidden just around the corner. Like the Loch Ness monster, they insist it's there, even if no one can find it.
Consider this. In March of 2017, Democrats on this committee said they had more than circumstantial evidence of collusion but they couldn't reveal it yet. Mr. Mueller was soon appointed and they said he would find the collusion.
Then when no collusion was found in Mr. Mueller's indictment, the Democrats said we'd find it in his final report. Then when there was no collusion in the report, we were told Attorney General Barr was hiding it. Then when it was clear Barr wasn't hiding anything, we were told it will be revealed through a hearing with Mr. Mueller himself.
NUNES: Now that Mr. Mueller is here, they are claiming that the collusion has actually been in his report all along, hidden in plain sight, and they're right. There is collusion in plain sight, collusion between Russia and the Democratic party.
The Democrats colluded with Russian sources to develop the Steele dossier, and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya colluded with the dossiers key architect, Fusion GPS Head Glenn Simpson.
The Democrats have already admitted both in interviews and through their usual anonymous statements to reporters that today's hearing is not about getting information at all, they said they want to, "bring the Mueller report to life." And create a television moment (ph) for poise, like having Mr. Mueller recite passages from his own report.
In other words, this hearing is political theater, it's a Hail Mary attempt to convince the American people that collusion in real, and that it's concealed in the report. Granted, that's a strange argument to make about a report that is public. It's almost like the Democrats prepared arguments accusing Mr. Barr of hiding the report and didn't bother to update their claims once he published the entire thing.
Among Congressional Democrats the Russia investigation was never about finding the truth, it's always been a simple media operation by their own accounts this operation continues in this room today.
Once again numerous pressing issues this Committee needs to address are put on hold to indulge the political fantasies of people who believed it was their destiny to serve Hillary Clinton's administration. It's time for the curtain to close on the Russia hoax, the conspiracy theory is dead.
At some point I would argue we're going to have to get back to work -- until then, I yield back the balance of my time. SCHIFF: To ensure fairness and make sure that our hearing is prompt, I know we got a late start Director Mueller. The hearing will be structured as follows -- each member of the Committee will be afforded five minutes to ask questions beginning with the Chair and Ranking Member.
As Chair, I will recognize thereafter an alternating fashion and descending order of seniority -- members of the majority and minority. After each member has asked his or her questions the Ranking Member will be afforded an additional five minutes to ask questions followed by the Chair, who'll have additional five minutes for questions.
Ranking Member and the Chair will not be permitted to delegate or yield our final round of questions to any other member. After six members of the majority and six members of the minority have concluded their five minute rounds of questions we'll take a 5 or 10 minute break, we understand you requested before resuming the hearing with Congressman Swalwell starting his round of questions.
Special Counsel Mueller is accompanied today by Aaron Zebley who served as Deputy Special Counsel from May 2017 until May 2019, and had day-to-day oversight of the Special Counsel's investigation.
Mr. Mueller and Mr. Zebley resigned from the Department of Justice at the end of May 2019 when the Special Counsel's Office was closed.
Both Mr. Mueller and Mr. Zebley will be available to answer questions today and will be sworn in consistent with the rules of the House and the Committee.
Mr. Mueller and Mr. Zebley's appearance today before the Committee is in keeping with the Committee's longstanding practice of receiving testimony from current or former Department of Justice and FBI personnel regarding open and closed investigative matters. As this hearing is under oath and before we begin your testimony, Mr. Mueller and Zebley, would you please rise and raise your right hands to be sworn.
Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give at this hearing is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
Thank you, the record will reflect that the witnesses have been dually sworn. Ranking member.
NUNES: Thank you Mr. Chair, I just want to clarify that this is highly unusual for Mr. Zebley to be sworn in, we're here to ask Director Mueller questions, he's here as counsel -- our side's not going to be directing any questions to Mr. Zebley, and we have concerns about this prior representation of the Hillary Clinton campaign aid. So I just want to voice that concern that we do have, we will not be addressing any questions to Mr. Zebley today.
SCHIFF: I thank the Ranking Member, I realize as you probably do Mr. Zebley that there is an angry man down the street whose not happy about your being here today, but it is up to this Committee and not anyone else who will be allowed to be sworn in and testify, and you are welcome as a private citizen to testify, and members may direct their questions to whoever they choose. With that, Director Mueller you are recognized for any opening remarks you'd like to make.
MUELLER: Good afternoon Chairman Schiff, Ranking Member Nunes and members of the Committee. I testified this morning before the House Judiciary Committee, I asked that the opening statement I made before that Committee be incorporated in to the record here.
SCHIFF: Without objection, Director.
MUELLER: I understand that this Committee has a unique jurisdiction, and that you are interested in further understanding the counterintelligence implications of our investigation. So let me say a word about how we handled the potential impact of our investigation on counterintelligence matters.
As we explained in our report, the Special Counsel regulations effectively gave me the role of United States Attorney. As a result we structured our investigation around evidence for possible use in prosecution of federal crimes. We did not reach what you could call counterintelligence conclusions. We did however set up processes in the office to identify and pass counterintelligence information on to the FBI.
Members of our office periodically briefed the FBI about counterintelligence information in addition there were agents and analysts from the FBI who were not on our team, but whose job it was to identify counterintelligence information in our files, and to disseminate that information to the FBI.
With these reasons, questions about what the FBI has done with the counterintelligence information obtained from our investigation should be directed to the FBI. I also want to reiterate a few points that I made this morning.
I am not making any judgments or offering opinions about the guilt or innocence in any pending case. It is unusual for a prosecutor to testify about a criminal investigation, and given my role as a prosecutor there are reasons why my testimony will (ph) necessarily be limited.
First public testimony could effect several ongoing matters, in some of these matters court rules or judicial orders limit the disclosure of information to protect the fairness of the proceedings. And consistent with longstanding Justice Department policy, it would be inappropriate for me to comment in any way that could effect an ongoing matter.
MUELLER: Second, the Justice Department has asserted privileges concerning investigative information and decisions, ongoing matters within the Justice Department, and deliberations within out office. These are Justice Department privileges that I will respect.
The department has released a letter discussion the restrictions on my testimony. I therefore will not be able to answer questions about certain areas that I know 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 matter 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.
Third as I explained this morning, it is important for me to adhere to what we wrote in our report. The report contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We stated the results of our investigation with precision and do not intent to summarize or describe the results of our work in a different way in the course of my testimony today.
And as I stated in May, I also will not comment on the actions of the attorney general or of Congress. I was appointed as a prosecutor and I intend to adhere to that role and to the department's standards that govern it.
Finally, as I said this morning, over the course of my career I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government's efforts to interfere in our election is among the most serious, and I am sure that the committee agrees.
Now, before we god to questions I want to add one correction to my testimony this morning. I wanted to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu. It was 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 in the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime. And with that, Mr. Chairman, I'm ready to answer questions.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Director Mueller. I recognize myself for five minutes. Director Mueller, your report describes a sweeping and systematic effort by Russia to influence our presidential election. Is that correct?
MUELLER: That is correct.
SCHIFF: 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 FBI 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 that that occurred, yes.
SCHIFF: The president's son said when he was approached about dirt on Hillary Clinton that the Trump campaign would love it?
MUELLER: That is generally what was said, yes.
SCHIFF: The president himself called on the Russians to hack Hillary's emails?
MUELLER: There was a statement by the president in those general lines.
SCHIFF: Numerous times during the campaign the president praised the releases of the Russian-hacked emails through WikiLeaks?
MUELLER: That did occur.
SCHIFF: Your report found that the Trump campaign planned, quote, " a press strategy, communications campaign, and messaging," unquote, based on that Russian assistance?
MUELLER: I am not familiar with that.
SCHIFF: That language comes from Volume 1, page 54. Apart from the Russians wanting to help Trump win, several individuals associated with the Trump campaign were also trying to make money during the campaign and transition. Is that correct?
MUELLER: That is true.
SCHIFF: Paul Manafort was trying to make money or achieve debt forgiveness from a Russian oligarch?
MUELLER: Generally that is accurate.
SCHIFF: Michael Flynn was trying to make money from Turkey?
SCHIFF: Donald Trump was trying to make millions from a real estate deal in Moscow?
MUELLER: To the extent you're talking about the hotel in Moscow?
SCHIFF: When you investigation looked into these matters, numerous Trump associates lied to your team, the grand jury, and to Congress?
MUELLER: A number of persons that we interviewed in our investigation turns out did lie.
SCHIFF: Mike Flynn lied?
MUELLER: He was convicted of lying, yes.
SCHIFF: George Papadopoulos was convicted of lying?
SCHIFF: Paul Manafort was convicted of lying?
SCHIFF: Paul Manafort was - in fact, went so far as to encourage other people to lie?
MUELLER: That is accurate.
SCHIFF: Manafort's deputy, Rick Gates, lied?
MUELLER: That is accurate.
SCHIFF: Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer, was indicted for lying?
SCHIFF: He lied to stay on message with the president?
MUELLER: Allegedly by him.
SCHIFF: And when Donald Trump called your investigation a witch hunt, that was also false, was it not?
MUELLER: I'd like to think so, yes.
SCHIFF: Well, your investigation is not a witch hunt. Is...
MUELLER: It is not a witch hunt.
SCHIFF: When the president said the Russian interference was a hoax, that was false, wasn't it?
SCHIFF: We decided publically it was false?
MUELLER: He did say publically that it was false, yes.
SCHIFF: And when he told it to Putin, that was false, too, wasn't it?
MUELLER: That I'm not familiar with.
SCHIFF: When the president said he had no business dealings with Russia, that was false, wasn't it?
MUELLER: I'm not going to go into the details of the report that are along those lines.
SCHIFF: When the president said he had no business dealings with Russia, in fact he was seeking to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, was he not?
MUELLER: I think there - there are some questions about when this was accomplished.
SCHIFF: You would consider a billion dollar deal to build a tower in Moscow to be business dealings, wouldn't you, Director Mueller?
SCHIFF: In short, your investigation found evidence that Russia wanted to help Trump win the election, right?
MUELLER: I think generally that would be accurate.
SCHIFF: Russia informed campaign officials of that?
MUELLER: I'm not certain to what conversation you're referring to.
SCHIFF: Well, through an intermediary then informed Papadopoulos that they could help with the anonymous release of stolen emails?
SCHIFF: Russia committed federal crimes in order to help Donald Trump?
MUELLER: When you're talking about computer crimes in the charge...
MUELLER: ... in our case, absolutely.
SCHIFF: The Trump campaign officials built their strategy - their messaging strategy around those stolen documents?
MUELLER: Generally that's true.
SCHIFF: And then they lied to cover it up.
MUELLER: Generally, that's true.
SCHIFF: Thank you. Mr. Nunes.
NUNES: Thank you. Welcome, Director. As a former FBI Director, you'd agree that the FBI is the world's most capable law enforcement agency?
MUELLER: I would say we're - yes.
NUNES: The FBI claims the counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign began on July 31, 2016. But in fact, it began before that. In June 2016 before the investigation officially opened, Trump campaign associates Carter Page and Stephen Miller, a current Trump advisor, were invited to attend a symposium at Cambridge University in July 2016.
Your office, however, did not investigate who was responsible for inviting these Trump associates to this symposium. Your investigators also failed to interview Steven Schrage, and American citizen who helped organize the event and invited Carter Page to it. Is that correct?
MUELLER: Can you repeat the question?
NUNES: Whether or not you interviewed Steven Schrage, who organized the Cambridge...
MUELLER: In those areas, I am going to stay away from.
NUNES: The first Trump associate to be investigated was General Flynn. Many of the allegations against him stem from false media reports that he had an affair with the Cambridge Academics' Svetlana Lokhova and that Lokhova was a Russian spy.
Some of these allegations were made public in a 2017 article written by British intelligence historian Christopher Andrew.
Your report fails to reveal how or why Andrew and his collaborator, Richard Dearlove, former head of Britain's MI6, spread these allegations. And you failed to interview Svetlana Lokhova about these matters. Is that correct?
MUELLER: I'm going to get - not going to get into those matters to which you refer.
NUNES: You had a team of 19 lawyers, 40 agents and an unlimited budget, correct, Mr. Mueller?
MUELLER: I would not say we had an unlimited budget.
NUNES: Let's continue with the ongoing - or the opening of the investigation, supposedly on July 31st, 2016, the investigation was not open based on an official product from Five Eyes intelligence, but based on a rumor conveyed by Alexander Downer.
On Volume 1, page 89, your report describes him blandly as a representative of a foreign government. But he was actually a long time Australian politician, not a military or intelligence official who had previously arranged a $25 million donation to the Clinton Foundation and has previous ties to Dearlove.
So Downer conveys a rumor he supposedly heard about a conversation between Papadopoulos and Joseph Mifsud. James Comey has publicly called Mifsud a Russian agent, yet your report does not refer to Mifsud as a Russian agent.
Mifsud has extensive contacts with western governments and the FBI. For example, there is a recent photo of him standing next to Boris Johnson, the new prime minister of Great Britain.
What we're trying to figure out here, Mr. Mueller, is if our NATO allies or Boris Johnson have been compromised. So we're trying to figure out Comey says Mifsud is a Russian agent, you do not.
So is - do you stand by what's in the report? MUELLER: I stand by that which is in the report and not so necessarily with that, which is - which is not in the report.
NUNES: I want to return to Mr. Downer. He denies that Papadopoulos mentioned anything to him about Hillary Clinton's e-mails and in fact Mifsud denies mentioning to them - that to Papadopoulos.
He denies that Papadopoulos mentioned anything to him about Hillary Clinton's e-mails and in fact Mifsud denies mentioning them to Papadopoulos in the first place. So how does the FBI know to continually ask Papadopoulos about Clinton's e-mails for the rest of 2016?
Even more strangely, your sentencing memo on Papadopoulos blames him for hindering the FBI's ability to potentially detain or arrest Mifsud. But the truth is, Mifsud waltzed in and out of the United States in December 2016.
The U.S. media could find him, the Italian press found him, and he's a supposed Russian agent at the epicenter of the reported collusion conspiracy. He's the guy who knows about Hillary Clinton's e-mails and that the Russians have them.
But the FBI failed to question him for a half a year after officially opening the investigation. And then according to Volume 1, page 193 of your report, once Mifsud finally was questioned, he made false statements to the FBI.
But you declined to charge him. Is that correct, you did not indict Mr. Mifsud?
MUELLER: I'm not going to speak to the series of happenings as you articulated them.
NUNES: But you did not indict Mr. Mifsud?
SCHIFF: Time of the gentleman has expired.
NUNES: You did not indict Mr. Mifsud.
SCHIFF: Mr. Himes.
HIMES: Director Mueller, thank you for your lifetime of service to this country and thank you for your perseverance and patients today. Director, your report opens with two statements of remarkable clarity and power.
The first statement is one that is as of today not acknowledged by the president of the United States, and that is, quote, "the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion". The second statement remains controversial amongst members of this body, same page on your report, and I quote, "the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome". Do I have that statement right?
MUELLER: I believe so.
HIMES: Director Mueller, this attack on our democracy involved as you said two operations. First, a social media disinformation campaign, this was a targeted campaign to spread false information on places like Twitter and Facebook. Is that correct?
MUELLER: That's correct.
HIMES: Facebook estimated as per your report that the Russian fake images reached 126 million people, is that correct?
MUELLER: I believe that's the sum that we recorded.
HIMES: Director, who did the Russian social media campaign ultimately intend to benefit, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?
MUELLER: Donald Trump.
HIMES: The second operation, Director -
MUELLER: Let me just say Donald Trump, but there were instances where Hillary Clinton was subject to much the same behavior.
HIMES: The second operation in the Russian attack was a scheme, what we called the hack and dump to steal and release hundreds of thousands of e-mails from the Democratic Party from the Clinton campaign.
Is that a fair summary?
MUELLER: That is.
HIMES: Did your investigation find that the releases of the hacked e- mails were strategically timed to maximize impact on the election?
MUELLER: I'd have to refer you to the - our report on that question.
HIMES: Page 36, I quote, "the release of the documents were designed and timed to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election." Mr. Mueller, which presidential candidate was Russia's hacking and dumping operation designed to benefit, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?
MUELLER: Mr. Trump.
HIMES: Mr. Mueller, is it possible that this sweeping and systematic effort by Russia actually had an effect on the outcome of the presidential election?
MUELLER: Those issues are being - or have been investigated by other entities. HIMES: One hundred and twenty-six million Facebook impressions, fake rallies, attacks on Hillary Clinton's health, would you rule out that it might have had some effect on the election?
MUELLER: I'm not going to speculate.
HIMES: Mr. Mueller, your report describes a third avenue of attempted Russian interference, that is the numerous links in contacts between the Trump campaign and individuals tied to the Russian government. Is that correct?
MUELLER: Could you repeat that question?
HIMES: Your report describes what is called a third avenue of Russian interference, and that's the links and contacts between the Trump campaign and individuals tied to the Russian government.
HIMES: Let's bring up slide one which is about George Papadopoulos and it reads on May 6th, 2016, 10 days after that meeting with Mifsud, much discussed today, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.
And Director, that's exactly what happened two months later, is it not?
MUELLER: Well I can speak to the excerpt that you have on screen as being accurate from the report, but not the second half of your question.
HIMES: Well, the second half, just to refer to page six of the report, is that on July 22nd, through WikiLeaks, thousands of these emails that were - that were stolen by the Russian government appeared, correct? That's on page six of the report. This is the WikiLeaks posting of those e-mails.
MUELLER: I can't find it quickly, but please continue.
HIMES: OK. So just to be clear, before the public or the FBI ever knew, the Russians previewed for a Trump campaign official, George Papadopoulos, that they had stolen e-mails that they could release anonymously to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. Is that correct?
MUELLER: I'm not going to speak to - to that.
HIMES: Director, rather than report this contact with Joseph Mifsud, and the notion there that was dirt that the campaign could use, rather than report that to the FBI that I think most of my constituents would expect an individual to do, Papadopoulos in fact lied about his Russian contacts to you. Is that correct?
MUELLER: That's true.
HIMES: We have an election coming up in 2020, Director. If a campaign receives an offer of dirt from a foreign individual or a government, generally speaking, should that campaign report those contacts?
MUELLER: It should be (ph) - it can be, depending on the circumstances of crime.
HIMES: I will yield back the balance of my time.
SCHIFF: Mr. Conaway.
CONAWAY: Thank you. Mr. Mueller, did anyone ask you to exclude anything from your report that you felt should've been in the report?
MUELLER: I don't think so, but it's not a small report.
CONAWAY: But no one asked you specifically to exclude something that you believe should've been in there?
MUELLER: Not that I can recall, no.
CONAWAY: I yield the balance of time to Mr. Ratcliffe. Thank you.
RATCLIFFE: I thank the gentleman for yielding. Good afternoon, Director Mueller. In your May 29th press conference and, again, in your opening remarks this morning, you made it pretty clear you wanted the special counsel report to speak for itself. You said at your press conference that that was the office's final position and we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the president.