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Further Coverage of Robert Mueller Testimony at House Intelligence Committee. Aired 1:30-2p 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.
RATCLIFFE: -- and we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the president.
Now you spent the last few hours of your life from Democrats trying to get you to answer all kinds of hypotheticals about the president, and I expect that it may continue for the next few hours of your life. I think you've stayed pretty much true to what your intent and desire was, but I guess, regardless of that, the special counsel's office has closed, and it has no continuing jurisdiction or authority.
So what would be your authority or jurisdiction for adding new conclusions or determinations to the special counsel's written report?
MUELLER: As to the latter, I don't know or expect changes in conclusions that we included in our - in our report.
RATCLIFFE: So to that point, you addressed one of the issues that I needed to, which was from your testimony this morning, which some construed as a change to the written report. You talked about the exchange that you had with Congressman Lou. I wrote it down a little bit different.
I want to ask you about it so that the record's perfectly clear. I recorded that he asked you, quote, "The reason you did not indict Donald Trump is because of the OLC opinion stating you cannot indict a sitting president," to which you responded, "That is correct." That response is inconsistent. I think you'll agree with your written report.
I want to be clear that it is not your intent to change your written report. It is your intent to clarify the record today (ph).
MUELLER: Well, as I started today, this afternoon, and added either a footnote or an endnote, what I wanted to clarify is the fact that we did not make any determination with regard to culpability in any way. We did not start that process down - down the road.
RATCLIFFE: Terrific. Thank you for clarifying the record. The stated purpose of your appointment as special counsel was to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. As part of that full and thorough investigation, what determination did the special counsel office make about whether the Steele dossier was part of the Russian government efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election?
MUELLER: Again, when it comes to Mr. Steele, I defer to the Department of Justice.
RATCLIFFE: Well, first of all, Director, I very much agree with your determination that Russia's efforts were sweeping and systematic. I think it should concern every American. That's why I want to know just how sweeping and systematic those efforts were. I want to find out if Russia interfered with our election by providing false information through sources to Christopher Steele about a Trump conspiracy that you determined didn't exist.
MUELLER: Well, I - again, I'm not going to discuss the issues with regard to Mr. Mueller. The - and in terms of a portrayal of the conspiracies, we returned two indictments in the computer crimes arena. One with (ph) GRU and another, active (ph) measures in which we lay out, in excruciating detail ...
RATCLIFFE: I ...
MUELLER: ... what occurred in those two rather large conspiracies.
RATCLIFFE: I agree, with respect to that. But why this is important is an application and three renewal applications were submitted by the United States government to spy or surveil on Trump campaign Carter associate - or Carter Page, and on all four occasions, the United States government submitted the Steele dossier as a central piece of evidence, with respect to that.
Now the basic premise of the dossier, as you know, was that there was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, but the special counsel investigation didn't establish any conspiracy, correct?
MUELLER: Well, I - what I can tell you is that the events that you are characterizing here, now, is a part of another matter that is being handled by the Department of Justice.
RATCLIFFE: But you did not establish any conspiracy, much less a well- developed one?
MUELLER: Again, I pass on answering that question.
RATCLIFFE: The special counsel did not charge Carter Page with anything, correct?
MUELLER: The special counsel did not.
RATCLIFFE: All right. My time has expired. I yield back.
SCHIFF: Ms. Sewell.
SEWELL: Director Mueller, I'd like to turn your attention to the June 9th, 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Slide two, which should be on the screen now, is part of an e-mail chain between Don Jr. - Donald Trump Jr. and a publicist representing the son of a Russian oligarch. The e- mail exchange ultimately led to the now infamous June 9th, 2016 meeting.
The e-mail from the publicist to Donald Trump Jr. reads in part, "The crown prosecutor of Russia offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary in her dealings with Russia and is a part of the Russia and its government's support of Mr. Trump." In this e-mail, Donald Trump Jr. is being told that the Russian government wants to pass along information which would hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. Is that correct?
MUELLER: That's correct.
SEWELL: Now Trump Jr.'s response to that e-mail is slide three. He said, and I quote, "If it is what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer." Then Donald Jr. invited senior campaign officials Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner to the meeting, did he not?
MUELLER: He did.
SEWELL: This e-mail exchange is evidence of an offer of illegal assistance, is it not?
MUELLER: I cannot adopt that characterization.
SEWELL: But isn't it against the law for a presidential campaign to accept anything of value from a foreign government.
MUELLER: Generally speaking, yes, but -- generally the cases are unique.
SEWELL: Well, you say in page 184 in Volume 1, that the Federal Campaign Finance Law broadly prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions, et cetera, and then you say that foreign nationals may not make a contribution or donation of money or anything of value. It says clearly in the report itself.
MUELLER: Thank you.
SEWELL: Now, let's turn to what actually happened at the meeting. When Donald Trump Junior and the others got to the June 9th meeting, they realized the Russian delegation didn't have the promised quote unquote "dirt." They got upset about that, did they not?
MUELLER: Generally, yes.
SEWELL: You say in Volume 1, page 118, that Trump Junior asked what are we doing here? What -- what do they have on Clinton? And during the meeting, Kushner actually texted Manafort saying it was, quote, "a waste of time," end quote. Is that correct?
MUELLER: I believe it's in the report, along the lines you specify.
SEWELL: So to be clear, top Trump campaign officials learned that Russia wanted to help Donald Trump's campaign by giving him dirt on his opponent. Trump Junior said loved it. Then he and senior officials held a meeting with the Russians to try to get the Russian help, but they were disappointed because the dirt wasn't as good as they hoped. So to the next step, did anyone to your knowledge in the Trump campaign ever tell the FBI of this offer?
MUELLER: I don't believe so.
SEWELL: Did Donald Trump Junior tell the FBI that they received an offer of help from the Russians?
MUELLER: That's about all I'll say on this aspect of it.
SEWELL: Wouldn't it be true, sir, that if they had reported it to the FBI or anyone in the campaign during the course of your two-year investigation, you would have uncovered such a...
MUELLER: I would hope, yes.
SEWELL: Sir, is it not the responsibility of political campaigns to inform the FBI if they receive information from a foreign government?
MUELLER: I would think that that is something they would and should do.
SEWELL: Not only did the campaign not tell the FBI, they sought to hide the existence of the June 9th meeting for over a year. Is that not correct?
MUELLER: On the general characterization, I would question it. If you're referring to later initiative that flowed from the media, then...
SEWELL: No, what I'm suggesting is you've said in Volume 2, page 5 on several occasions the president directed aides not to publicly disclose the email setting up the June 9th meeting.
MUELLER: Yes, that's accurate.
SEWELL: Thanks. Sir, given this illegal assistance by Russians, you chose even given that, you did not charge Donald Trump Junior or any of the other senior officials with conspiracy. Is that right?
SEWELL: And while...
MUELLER: When you're talking about -- if you're talking about other individuals, you're talking about the attendees on June 9th, that's accurate.
SEWELL: That's right. So Mr. Mueller, even though it didn't -- you didn't charge them with conspiracy, don't you think the American people would be concerned these three senior campaign officials eagerly sought a foreign adversary's help to win elections and don't you think that reporting that is important that we don't set a precedent for future elections?
MUELLER: I can't accept that characterization. SEWELL: Well, listen, I think that it seems like a betrayal of American values to me, sir, that someone with -- if not (ph) being criminal is unethical and wrong, and I would think that we would not want to set a precedent that political campaigns would not divulge information if it's foreign government assistance. Thank you, sir.
NADLER: Mr. Turner?
TURNER: Mr. Mueller, I have your opening statement, and in the beginning of your opening statement you indicate pursuant to Justice Department relations, that you submitted a confidential report to the attorney general at the conclusion of the investigation. What I'd like you to confirm is the report that you did that is the subject matter of this hearing was to the attorney general.
TURNER: You also state in this opening statement that you threw overboard the word collusion because it's not a legal term. You would not conclude because collusion was not a legal term?
MUELLER: Well, it depends on how you want to use the word. In a general parlance, people can think of it that way, if you're talking about in a criminal statute arena, you can't. Because it really -- it's much more accurately described as conspiracy. TURNER: All right. So in your words, it's not a legal term, so you didn't put it in your conclusion. Correct?
MUELLER: That's correct.
TURNER: Mr. Mueller, I want to talk about your powers and authorities. Now, the attorney general and the appointment order gave you powers and authorities that reside in the attorney general. Now, the attorney general has no ability to give you powers of authority greater than the powers and authority of the attorney general. Correct?
MUELLER: I don't believe -- yeah. I think that is correct.
TURNER: Mr. Mueller, I want to focus on one word in your report. It's a second to the last word in the report. It's exonerate. The report states accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it does not exonerate him. Now, in the judiciary hearing in your prior testimony, you've already agreed with Mr. Ratcliffe that exonerate is not a legal term, that there is not a legal test for this.
So I have a question for you, Mr. Mueller. Mr. Mueller, does the attorney general have the power or authority to exonerate? What I'm putting up here is the United States code. This is where the attorney general gets his power and the Constitution and the annotated (ph) cases of these, which then (ph) starts, we even went to your law school, I went to Case Western, but I thought maybe your law school teaches it differently, and we got the criminal law textbook from your law school.
Mr. Mueller, nowhere in these -- because we had these scanned -- is there a process or description on exonerate. There's no office of exoneration at the attorney general's office. There's no certificate at the bottom of his desk. Mr. Mueller, would you agree with me that the attorney general does not have the power to exonerate?
MUELLER: I'm going to pass on that.
MUELLER: Because it embroils us in a legal discussion, and I'm not prepared to do a legal discussion in that arena.
TURNER: Mr. Mueller, you would not disagree with me when I say that there is no place that the attorney general has the power to exonerate and he's not been given that authority?
MUELLER: I'm not going to -- I take your question.
TURNER: Great. The one thing that I guess, is that the attorney general probably knows he can't exonerate either, and that's the part that kind of confuses me. Because if the attorney general doesn't have the power to exonerate, then you don't have the power to exonerate, and I believe he knows he doesn't have the power to exonerate.
And so this is that I don't understand. If your report is to the attorney general, and the attorney general doesn't have the power to exonerate and he does not -- and he knows you do not have that power, you don't have to tell him that you're not exonerating the president. He knows this already. So then that kind of changes the context of the report.
MUELLER: No. We included in the report for exactly that reason. He may not know it and should.
TURNER: So you believe that Attorney Bill Barr believes somewhere in the hallways of the Department of Justice, there's an office of exoneration?
MUELLER: No, that's not what I said.
TURNER: Well I believe he knows and I don't believe you put that in there for Mr. Barr. I think you put that in there for exactly what I'm going to discuss next, and that is, so "The Washington Post" yesterday, when speaking of your report, the article said Trump could not be exonerated of trying to obstruct the investigation itself.
Trump could not be exonerated. Now, that statement is correct, Mr. Mueller isn't it, in that no one can be exonerated? The reporter wrote this. This reporter can't be exonerated. Mr. Mueller, you can't be exonerated. In fact, in our criminal justice system, there is no power or authority to exonerate.
Now, this is my concern, Mr. Mueller, this is the headline on all of the news channels while you were testifying today Mueller, Trump was not exonerated.
Now, Mr. Mueller, what you know is that this can't say Mueller exonerated Trump. Because you don't have the power or authority to exonerate Trump, you had no more power to declare him exonerated than you have the power to declare him Anderson Cooper.
So the problem that I have here is that, since there's no one in the criminal justice system that has that power -- the president pardons, he doesn't exonerate; courts and juries don't declare innocent, they declare not guilty, they don't even declare exoneration -- the statement about exoneration is misleading and it's meaningless. And it -- it colors this investigation; one word, out of the entire portion of your report, and it's a meaningless word that has no legal meaning and it has colored your entire report.
SCHIFF: Time of the gentleman has expired.
TURNER: I yield back.
SCHIFF: Mr. Carson?
CARSON: Thank you, chairman.
Thank you, Director Mueller, for your years of service to our country. I want to look more closely, sir, at the Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, an individual who I believe betrayed our country, who lied to a grand jury, who tampered with witnesses and who repeatedly tried to use his position with the Trump campaign to make more money.
Let's focus on the betrayal and greed. Your investigation, sir, found a number of troubling contacts between Mr. Manafort and Russian individuals during and after the campaign. Is that right sir?
CARSON: In addition to the June 9th meeting just discussed, Manafort also met several time with a man named Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI assessed to have ties with Russian intel agencies. Is that right, sir?
CARSON: In fact, Mr. Manafort didn't just meet with him; he shared private Trump campaign polling information with this man linked to Russian intelligence. Is that right, sir?
MUELLER: That is -- that is correct.
CARSON: And in turn, the information was shared with a Russian oligarch tied to Vladimir Putin. Is that right, sir?
CARSON: Director Mueller, meeting with him wasn't enough. Sharing internal polling information wasn't enough. Mr. Manafort went so far as to offer this Russian oligarch tied to Putin a private briefing on the campaign. Is that right, sir?
MUELLER: Yes, sir. CARSON: And finally, Mr. Manafort also discussed internal campaign strategy on four battleground states -- Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota -- with the Russian intelligence-linked individual. Did he not, sir?
MUELLER: That's reflected in the report, as were the items you listed previously.
CARSON: Director Mueller, based on your decades of years of experience at the FBI, would you agree, sir, that it creates a national security risk when a presidential campaign chairman shares private polling information on the American people, private political strategy related to winning the votes of the American people and private information about American battleground states with a foreign adversary?
MUELLER: Is that the question, sir?
CARSON: Yes, sir.
MUELLER: I'm not going to speculate along those lines. To the extent that it's within the lines of the report, then I support it. Anything beyond that is not part of that which I would support.
CARSON: Well, I think it does, sir. I think it shows an infuriating lack of patriotism from the very people seeking the highest office in the land. Director Mueller, Manafort didn't share this information in exchange for nothing. Did he, sir?
MUELLER: I can't answer that question without knowing more about the -- the question.
CARSON: Well, it's clear that he hoped to be paid back money he was owed by Russian or Ukrainian oligarchs in return for the passage of private campaign information. Correct, sir?
MUELLER: That -- that is true.
CARSON: Director Mueller, as my colleague Mr. Heck will discuss later, greed corrupts. Would you agree, sir, that the sharing of private campaign information in exchange for money represents a particular kind of corruption, one that presents a national security risk to our country, sir?
MUELLER: I'm not going to opine on that. I don't have the expertise in that arena to really opine.
CARSON: Would you agree, sir, that Manafort's contacts with Russians close to Vladimir Putin and his efforts to exchange private information on Americans for money left him vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians?
MUELLER: I think generally so that would be the case.
CARSON: Would you agree, sir, these acts demonstrated a betrayal of the democratic values that our country rests on?
MUELLER: I can't agree with that. Not that -- not that it's not true, but I cannot agree with it.
CARSON: Yes, sir. Director Mueller, well, I can tell you that in my years of experience as a law enforcement officer and as a member of Congress fortunate to serve on the Intel Committee, I know enough to say yes. Trading political secrets for money with a foreign adversary can corrupt and it can leave you open to blackmail and it certainly represents the betrayal of the values underpinning our democracy.
I want to thank you for your service again. Director Mueller, we appreciate you for coming today. I yield back, Chairman.
SCHIFF: Dr. Wenstrup.
WENSTRUP: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Mueller for being here today. Mr. Mueller, is it accurate that your investigation found no evidence that members of the Trump campaign were involved in the theft or publication of Clinton campaign-related emails?
MUELLER: Can you read -- or can you repeat the question?
WENSTRUP: Is it accurate to say your investigation found no evidence that members of the Trump campaign were involved in the theft or publication of the Clinton campaign-related emails?
MUELLER: I don't know. What (inaudible)
WENSTRUP: Well, Volume 1, page 5, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
So it would therefore be inaccurate based on this to describe that finding as open to doubt, that finding being that the Trump campaign was involved with theft or publication of the Clinton campaign emails. You following that, sir?
MUELLER: I do believe I'm following it, but it is -- that portion or that matter does not fall within our jurisdiction or fall within our investigation.
WENSTRUP: Well basically what your report says Volume 1, page 5, I just want to be clear that open to doubt is how the Committee Democrats describe this finding in their minority views of our 2018 report, and it kind of flies in the face of what you have in your report.
So is it accurate also to say the investigation found no documentary evidence that George Papadopoulos told anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign about Joseph Mifsud's claims that the Russians had dirt on candidate Clinton?
MUELLER: Let me turn that over to Mr. Zebley.
WENSTRUP: I'd like to ask you, sire. This is your report, and that's what I'm basing this on.
MUELLER: And then could you repeat the question for me again? WENSTRUP: Yes, is it accurate to say the investigation found no documentary evidence that George Papadopoulos told anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign about Joseph Mifsud's claims that the Russians had dirt on candidate Clinton?
MUELLER: I believe and appearing in the report that it's accurate.
WENSTRUP: OK, so yes. In the report it says no documentary evidence that Papadopoulos shared this information with the campaign. It's therefore inaccurate to conclude that by the time of the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting, quote, "the campaign was likely already unnoticed via George Papadopoulos's contact with Russian agents that Russia, in fact, had damaging information on Trump's opponent. Would you say that that is inaccurate to say that it's likely already...
MUELLER: I'd direct you to -- I'd direct you to the report.
WENSTRUP: Well, I appreciate that because the Democrats jumped to this incorrect collusion in their minority views, again, which contradicts what you have in your report.
I'm concerned about a number of statements I'd like you to clarify because a number of Democrats have made some statements that I have concerns with, and maybe you can clear them up.
So a member of this Committee said President Trump was a Russian agent after your report was publicly released. That statement is not supported by your report, correct?
MUELLER: That is accurate. Not supported.
WENSTRUP: Multiple democrat members have asserted that Paul Manafort met with Julian Assange in 2016 before WikiLeaks released DNC emails implying Manafort colluded with Assange. Because your report does not mention finding evidence that Manafort met with Assange, I would assume that means you found no evidence of this meeting. Is that assumption correct?
MUELLER: I'm not certain I agree with that assumption.
WENSTRUP: But you make no mention of it in your report. Would you agree with that?
MUELLER: Yes, I would agree with that.
WENSTRUP: OK. Mr. Mueller, does your report contain any evidence that President Trump was enrolled in the Russian system of Kompromat as a member of this Committee once claimed?
MUELLER: Well, and to what I can speak to is information and evidence that we picked up at the special counsel, and I think that's accurate as far as it goes.
WENSTRUP: Thank you. I appreciate that. So let's go for a second to scope. Did you ask the Department Justice to expand the scope of the special counsel's mandate related to August 2, 2017 or August 20, 2017 scoping memoranda?
MUELLER: Well, there are -- without looking at the memoranda I could not answer that question.
WENSTRUP: Well, let me ask you did you ever make a request to expand your office's mandate at all?
MUELLER: Generally, yes.
WENSTRUP: And was that ever denied?
MUELLER: I'm not going to speak to that. It goes to no internal deliberation.
WENSTRUP: Well, I'm just trying to understand the process. Does expanding the scope come from the acting attorney general or Rod Rosenstein or does it come from you or can it come from either?
MUELLER: I'm not going to discuss any other alternatives.
WENSTRUP: Thank you, Mr. Mueller.
SCHIFF: Ms. Speier.
SPEIER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Mueller, I think I can say without fear of contradiction that you are the greatest patriot in this room today and I want to thank you for being here.
MUELLER: Thank you.
SPEIER: You said in your report -- and I'm going to quibble with your words -- that the Russian intervention was sweeping and systematic. I would quibble. with that because I don't think it was just an intervention. I think it was an invasion. And I don't think it was just sweeping and systematic. I think it was sinister and scheming.
And having said that, one of my colleagues earlier here referred to this Russian intervention as a hoax, and I'd like to get your comment on that. On page 26 of your report, you talk about the Internet research agency and how tens of millions of U.S. persons became engaged with the posts that they made, that there were some 80,000 posts on Facebook that Facebook itself admitted that 126 million people had probably seen, the posts that were put up by the Internet Research Agency, that they had 3,800 Twitter accounts and had designed more than 175,000 tweets that probably reached 1.4 million people.
The Internet Research Agency was spending about $1.25 million a month on all of this social media in the United States in what I would call an invasion in our country. Would you agree that it was not a hoax that the Russians were engaged in trying to impact our election?
MUELLER: Absolutely. It was not a hoax. The indictments we returned against the Russians, two different ones, were substantial in their scope, using that scope word again. And I think one of the -- we have underplayed to a certain extent, that aspect of the investigation that has and would have long term damage to the United States that we need to move quickly to address.
SPEIER: Thank you for that. I would like to drill down on that a little bit more. The Internet Research Agency actually started in 2014 by sending over staff as tourists, I guess, to start looking at where they wanted to engage. And there are many that suggest -- and I'm interested in your opinion -- as to whether or not Russia is presently in the United States looking for ways to impact the 2020 election.
MUELLER: I can't speak to that. That would be in (ph) levels of classification.
SPEIER: All right. Let me ask you this. Often times when we engage in these hearings, we forget the forest for the trees. You have a very large report here of over 400 pages, most Americans have not read it. We have read it. Actually the FBI director yesterday said he hadn't read it which was a little discouraging. But on behalf of the American people, I want to give you a minute and 39 seconds to tell the American people what you would like them to glean from this report.
MUELLER: Well, we spent substantial time assuring the integrity of the report, understanding it would be our living message to those who come after us. But it also is a signal, a flag, to those of us who have some responsibility in this area to exercise those responsibilities swiftly and don't let this problem continue to linger as it has over so many years.
SPEIER: All right. You didn't take the whole amount of time, so I'm going to yield the rest of my time to the chairman.
SCHIFF: I thank the gentlewoman for yielding. Director Mueller, I wanted to ask you about conspiracy. Generally, a conspiracy offers an offer of something illegal, acceptance of that offer in overt act and furtherance of it, is that correct?
SCHIFF: And Don Jr. was made aware that the Russians were offering dirt on his opponent, correct?
MUELLER: I don't know that for sure, but one would assume given the presence at the meeting.
SCHIFF: And when you say that you would love to get that help, that would constitute acceptance of the offer?
MUELLER: It's a wide open request.
SCHIFF: And it would certainly be evidence of acceptance if you say when somebody offers you something illegal and you say I would love it, that would be considered evidence of acceptance.
MUELLER: I (ph) can stay away -- addressing one or two particular situations.
SCHIFF: Well, this particular situation I'll have to continue in a bit. Now yield to Mr. Stewart. STEWART: Mr. Mueller, it's been a long day. Thank you for being here. I do have a series of important questions for you, but before I do that, I want to take a moment to re-emphasize something that my friend Mr. Turner has said. I've heard many people state no person is above the law. And many times recently, they add not even the president which I think is blazingly (ph) obvious to most of us.
MUELLER: I'm having trouble hearing you, sir.
STEWART: Is this better?
MUELLER: That is better, thank you.
STEWART: I want you to know that I agree with this statement that no person is above the law. But there's another principal that we also have to defend, and that is the presumption of innocence. And I'm sure you agree with this principle, though I think the way your office phrased some parts of your report, it does make me wonder, I have to be honest with you.
For going on three years, innocent people have been accused of very serious crimes, including treason, accusations made even here today.