Robert Mueller Hearings: 5 Breakout Moments (So Far)
Wednesday, 24 July 2019 Washington, D.C., ground to a standstill on Wednesday morning as former special counsel Robert Mueller testified before two congressional committees on Capitol Hill.
By 9:30 p.m. PT on Wednesday, words and phrases related to the hearings made up eight of the nine topics trending nationally on Twitter. Social media users and TV viewers reacted in real time to the biggest moments of the testimony — which was only the first of two.
Below, find some of the biggest moments:
*1. Trump Wasn’t Exonerated*
The first round of questioning the former special counsel faced came from House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Jerry Nadler, who wanted to know whether his report on the 2016 election totally exonerated Trump on obstruction of justice, as the president has claimed.
“Correct,” Mueller responded. “It is not what the report said.”
*Also Read:* Robert Mueller Confirms He Did Not 'Totally Exonerate' Trump (Video)
*2. Trump Could Be Charged With Obstruction After He Leaves Office
“You believe that he committed, you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he leaves office?” Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado, asked after Mueller said that Justice Department guidelines prevented him from indicting President Trump of any crime while he was in office.
“Yes,” Mueller replied.
*Also Read:* Robert Mueller Says Trump Could Be Charged With Obstruction After He Leaves Office
*3. “Impeachment” Is Addressed*
Throughout his testimony, Mueller referred to guidance from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that said the Justice Department could not indict a sitting president and explained that he and his team followed that guidance when deciding not to make a determination regarding Trump’s guilt on obstruction of justice specifically. (His prosecutors determined that there was not sufficient evidence to indict Trump or any member of his campaign of conspiracy with Russians to interfere with the 2016 election.)
Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar pressed, asking about his statement in May that the OLM opinion says “the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”
“That process other than the criminal justice system for accusing a president of wrongdoing,” she asked, “is that impeachment?”
He declined to comment, but she asked about previously mentioned “Constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.”
“What are those Constitutional processes?” she asked.
“I think I heard you mention at least one,” he said.
When she asked if he meant impeachment, he declined to comment again.
*Also Read:* Watch Robert Mueller Congressional Hearings Via Livestream (Video)
*4. GOP Presses on FBI Agent Peter Strzok’s Firing
Rep. Kelly Armstrong pressed Mueller on his hiring (and firing) practices by bringing up those who were fired from the special counsel’s team, most notably former FBI agent Peter Strzok.
The former Mueller probe investigator was called before Congress last summer to answer GOP grievances over his conduct at the FBI, specifically several text exchanges he had with FBI lawyer Lisa Page during the 2016 campaign wherein they worried Trump would be elected.
Armstrong said that Strzok testified last summer he was fired because Mueller was worried about “preserving the appearance of independence” in the investigation.
“He was transferred as a result of instances involving texts,” said Mueller.
“Do you agree that your office did not only have an obligation to operate with independence, but to operate with the appearance of independence as well?” asked Armstrong.
“Absolutely. We strove to do that over two years.”
Of the 19 lawyers on Mueller’s team, half of them had a direct relationship political or personal with the opponent of who he was investigating.
They donated $12k to Clinton. That’s not even counting the $49k donated to other Democrats.
Watch my questions for Mueller: pic.twitter.com/QMrY0x6GEv
– Congressman Kelly Armstrong (@RepArmstrongND) July 24, 2019
*5. “Collusion” vs. “Conspiracy”*
Rep. Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican, got a trending moment early on when he asked about Mueller’s definitions of “collusion” and “conspiracy.”
And Mueller appeared to stumble on whether the two words are synonymous — which Mueller denied until Collins pointed out that his report noted that for regular people “collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy as that crime is set forth in the general federal conspiracy statute.”
But when Collins asked him Wednesday if they were colloquially equivalent, Mueller said, “No” — prompting an accusation that Mueller was contradicting his own report.
*Related stories from TheWrap:*
Robert Mueller Says Trump Could Be Charged With Obstruction After He Leaves Office
Robert Mueller Confirms He Did Not 'Totally Exonerate' Trump (Video)
Watch Robert Mueller Congressional Hearings Via Livestream (Video)
Networks, Dem Congressman Agree: Mueller Testimony's Success Hinges on TV Ratings