tv Robert Mueller Hearing Coverage CNN July 24, 2019 7:00am-8:00am PDT
>> volume 1, 193. he lied three times. why didn't you charge him with a crime? >> i can't get into internal deliberations as to what or would not be -- >> you charged a lot of people from making false statements. let's remember this. in 2016 the fbi did something they probably haven't done before. they spied on two american citizens associated with the presidential campaign. george papadopoulos and carter page. was carter page who then went to the g the fisa court. with mr. papadopoulos they didn't go to the court. they used human sources. from about the moment papadopoulos joins the trump campaign you have all of these people all around the world starting to swirl around him. names like halper, downer, misfeud, thompson. meeting in rome, london, all
kinds of places and the fbi even sent a lady posing as somebody else. went by the name turk to spy on papadopoulos. in one of the meetings he is talking to a foreign diplomat and he says that the russians have dirt on clinton. that diplomat contacts the fbi and the fbi opens an investigation based on that fact. that's on page 1 of the report, july 21, 2016, they open up the investigation based on that piece of information. the diplomat tells papadopoulos -- that papadopoulos tells the diplomat russians have dirt on clinton. diplomat tells the fbi. what i'm wondering is who told papadopoulos? how did he find out? >> i can't get into the evidentiary -- >> yes, you can because you gave us the answer. page 192 of the report you tell us who told him.
joseph misfeud. he told papadopoulos and the mysterious professor who lives in rome and london, works at two different universities. he told papadopoulos he's the guy who starts it all. and when the fbi interviews him, he lies three times and yet you don't charge him with a crime. you charge rick gates for false statements. charge paul manafort and charge michael cohen and michael flynn a three-star general with false statements but the guy who puts the country through the whole saga starts it off for three years we have lived this now. he lies and you guys don't charge him. i'm curious as to why. >> well, i can't get into it and it's obvious i think we can't get into charging decisions. >> when the fbi interviewed him in february, when the special counsel's office interviewed misfeud did he lie to you too? >> i can't get into that. >> did you interview him? >> i can't get into it.
>> is he western or russian intelligence? >> i can't get into that. >> a lot of things you can't get into. you can charge 13 russians no one's ever heard of, no one is ever going to see them, you can charge them. you can charge all kinds of people who are around the president with false statements. but the guy who launches everything, the guy who puts this whole story in motion, you can't charge him. i think that's amazing. >> i'm not certain -- i'm not certain i agree with your characterizations. >> well, i'm reading from your report. misfeud told papadopoulos and papadopoulos tells the diplomat and the diplomat tells the fbi and the fbi opens the investigation in 2016 and here we are, three years later july of 2019, the country has been put through this and the central figure who launches it all? he lies to us and you guys don't hunt him down and interview him again. and you don't charge him with the crime. now here's the good news. here's the good news. the president was falsely accused of conspiracy.
the fbi does a ten month investigation and james comey told us at that point they had nothing. you do a 22 month investigation, at the end of the 22 month you find no conspiracy. and what's the democrat wanting to do? they want to keep investigating. maybe a better course of action is to figure out how the false accusations started. maybe it's to go become and actually figure out why joseph misfeud was lying to the fbi and here's the good news. here's the good news. that's exactly what bill barr is doing. and thank goodness for that. that's exactly what the attorney general and john durham are doing. they're going to find out why we went through this three years saga and have gone through it. >> the time is expired. in a moment we'll take a very brief five minute break. i ask everyone to please remain seated and quiet while the witness exits the room. i also want to announce to those in the audience that you may not be guaranteed your seat if you
leave the hearing room at this time. >> all right. so this is the first break that they're taking. the house judiciary committee, very, very explosive exchanges. very explosive information being released. there's a lot to discuss the initial statements from robert mueller in response to questioning from jerry nadler t committee chairman, his investigation nearly a two year investigation did not totally exonerate president trump despite what he has been saying. >> look, this has been well over an hour, almost actually an an hour and a half. and there have been a lot of questions in the weeds. but i think it's -- in some ways the democrats could have stopped stopped the hearing after the nadler exchange because in that exchange they got what they wanted and what they needed.
politically speaking, about the notion of obstruction and most importantly the notion of the president insisting over and over again that he was exonerated. he was not exonerated. and you had the special counsel who did the two-year investigation answering that very clearly with very direct, yes or no answers. >> specific -- very significant developments, jeffrey toobin. >> yeah, the nadler questioning was by far the most illuminating and most important exchange so far. i think there's a large question hovering over what we have seen for the hour and a half which is is mueller's phlegmatic, extremely limiting answer a strategy or is it some inability he has to engage with the questioners? i mean, i think the question of how he's -- you know, this very limited short sentences, yes or no, is that a strategy or is that something he's just not capable of doing? >> well, garrett, you know
robert mueller very well, you have written a book about him. what do you think? >> it's sort of hard to tell. i think i would expect robert mueller to be a little bit more combative than he has been during some of these exchanges. particularly the one with representative gohmert. this is not necessarily the robert mueller testify before congress before, but we have seen him -- you know, he performed very strongly in his opening remarks and that opening exchange with nadler. he has been shakier with some of these more complicated little bit more obscure questions with citations back to the report. and it's hard to know as jeffrey is saying whether that's a strategy on his part, where he's trying to be very, very precise in what his report is actually saying. it could also be we're seeing him shake off the rust of not testifying before congress in six years. >> did the chairman accomplish
what the democrats clearly wanted to try to accomplish? >> sure. in the opening round, yes. we're used to saying that members of congress don't know how to ask questions, well, they don't know how to be crisp about them. watching the testimony i graded him an "a." maybe an a-plus. what's interesting about what's been discussed in the last couple of minutes whether it's some inability or it's a strategy they both point to the same direction. and good for robert mueller who doesn't want to say much. when he gets good, sharp questions, that are clear, he answers in a good, sharp and clear way. i think at the beginning i was just observing everyone like the panel here, when he was answering yes, no, yes, yes, you don't see witnesses testify that way. lots of witnesses whether they're extremely sharp or not go on and on. they filibuster. he doesn't do that. i don't believe i have yet heard bob mueller give any kind of
narrative answer that goes more than one sentence. he'll either answer yes or no or say i refer you to the report. that's it. >> one of the things from the nadler exchange at the very top, dana bash, the report does not exonerate president trump. >> exactly. >> other people especially republicans have made other points but right now i think that's the headline out of th this -- out of the hearing so far. that mueller says that his report does not exonerate the president despite the president claiming so. >> absolutely. that is by far the headline. the person and the exchange that came close to that -- i think it maybe it backs it up and gives evidence behind the headline was the exchange we saw at the end here with congresswoman karen bass of california. she had the same kind of very fast paced. she asked the question, he answered yes or no and what she got out of the exchange was the fact that his counsel -- the president actually directed his counsel to try to fire robert
mueller and when that was reported by "the new york times" he tried to get don mcgahn the counsel we're talking about to deny it and he refused to do it because he said no, the story is true. that speaks to probably exhibit "a" in the -- at the evidence of the obstruction case. >> one of the -- one of the other points, the republicans are trying to score some points. congressman ratcliffe made the point it's not standard procedure for a prosecutor to say i'm not exonerating this person even though i'm not charging them. congressman gohmert accusing mueller of perpetuating injustice. congressman jim jordan asking a lot of questions about the mysterious joseph misfeud who we have never really figured out what exactly his role in all of this is. but i don't know that those are going to be headlines out of this report. i'm sure that they will -- you
know, merit some back slaps in the fox greenroom but i don't know if that's making a larger point here. >> right. or back slaps from the president. we have learned that congressman ratcliffe is auditioning for a job in the administration. he was echoing a question of this inverted standard of proof mueller saying he couldn't be exonerated and that the obstruction probe you don't prove someone's innocence, you prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. i think part of the strategy, the bigger strategy for republicans is they are trying to portray a confused witness who is not in command of his performance. i think that's the larger strategy. and we're see it from the republicans. >> i think there are two answers to the questions here. one of course is the nadler question. was he exonerated? clear answer from mueller is no. he answered in those terms more than once. when he was pressed on the conspiracy question, did the president conspire, et cetera, mueller's answer was not no.
it was we found insufficient evidence of the president's culpability. the president could have said clearly there's nothing there. he didn't. that's as far -- consistent with the report. by it shows you -- but it shows you he didn't dismiss that in the way he dismissed the claim of his obstruction. listen, i think it could be unfair to look at mueller's performance there and say that somehow he's not on top of things. i mean, you had -- you have a 400 page report here, members citing page citations and mueller -- when there are particular citations -- well, let me look at the report on the key questions of what he found, was there he gives a clear answer on the conspiracy question, a clear answer on the obstruction question and those are the takeaways. >> one other item that i think is important, jeffrey toobin, that he said that the
investigation began into the obstruction of justice charges started with the memo, meaning that i gather that they were never going to indict president trump. ever. >> and that was -- that's news, actually. i mean, because the question of how and whether and when the mueller team was going to abide by the office of legal counsel's opinion that you can't indict a sitting president when did they agree to that? apparently from day one. so they went into the investigation according to the special counsel knowing that they were never going to indict the president. and i think that shapes a lot of what follows. the problem i think when you think about a narrative, if you were a casual viewer today and someone were to ask you after an hour and a half, what did the president do wrong here? it wouldn't be easy to answer that question because of the sort of -- he's not telling a story. he is ratifying a story that the
questioners are asking him, one question at a time. those of us who know the story, you know we understand what they're getting at. but, you know, if he alternatively had said this is what don mcgahn told us, and that is just not how's approaching this -- >> he said refer to the report for further details. >> and part of the problem is that trump has spent the better part of 2 1/2 years telling you that this investigation was about him and when he outlined about what his directive and mandate was was to investigate the idea of foreign interference. he identified the notion he had under the olc opinion he said you never know where the investigation is going to lead. so a notion of being able to continue the investigation was extraordinarily important for him to do so because it wasn't as if his -- one of the targets was actually president trump. i look at actual mueller and how he operated today. i have to say he was extraordinarily frustrating as a witness because he continually derailed everyone's soap box.
he did not give an inch or remove one. in doing so, he said i told you before i got here, i was going to be limited. i was going to be pointed. look at the actual document, fine. you want to hear my answer, fine, but i have a duty here to be precise. you must ask a question you want answered as opposed to -- >> i want to point out that the chairman is now back in the room. you see him speaking with one of the counsels, norm isen and he was playing robert mueller in helping the democrats make sure they ask the right questions. >> preet bharara, were you surprised that they could not indict the president -- here's jerry nadler calling the hearing to order. you can answer that until we -- >> yeah. as jeffrey said that's news. i would have liked to -- i would like to hear a stronger answer as to why it was appropriate to continue the investigation because the implication of it is
as a lot of people are speculating, you do the investigation, you can continue to investigate and there's a body called congress that also has the -- you know, an interest in this and future prosecutions once he leaves office. so it was not all for naught. >> yeah. i think to laura's point, one of the things that's fascinating and helped to prep jim comey for some of these dramatic hearings before, this is not jim comey. you know? this is -- you know, you watch the way that comey has told these dramatic stories before about the president and you're not getting that with robert mueller. mueller is yes, no. >> yeah. >> refer to the report. >> i'm a little surprised at times he hasn't pushed back more when he was told that he was perpetuating injustice. he said i'll take your question, i think he went to say i take your point. but then later he did tell one of the congressman that he didn't agree with the assessment. so there's a little bit -- >> but he's not fiercely defending his own integrity or the integrity of his team.
>> no. which is surprising to me. >> hold on. because he's walking back in. robert mueller. they took a little break. they're going to resume i think for another hour and a half now before the judiciary part of the hearing concludes and then they go before the house committee. >> mr. richmond? >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. mueller, congressman deutsche addressed the request to mcgahn to fire you. representative bass talked about the president's request of mcgahn to deny the fact that the president made that request. so i want to pick up where they left off and i want to pick up with the president's personal lawyer. in fact, there was evidence that the president's personal lawyer was alarmed at the prospect of the president meeting with mr. mcgahn to discuss mr. mcgahn's
refusal to deny "the new york times" report about the president trying to fire you, correct? >> correct. >> in fact, the president's counsel was so alarmed by the prospect of the president's meeting with mcgahn that he called his counsel and said that mcgahn could not resign no matter what happened in the oval office that day. correct? >> correct. >> so it's accurate to say that the president knew that he was asking mcgahn to deny facts that mcgahn quote, had repeatedly said said were accurate, unquote, is that right? >> correct. your investigation also find, quote, by the time of the oval office meeting with the president, the president was aware one, that mcgahn did not think the story was false. two, did not want to issue a statement or create a written record denying facts that mcgahn believed to be true.
the president nevertheless persisted and asked mcgahn to repudiate facts that mcgahn had repeatedly said were accurate. is that right? >> generally true. >> i believe that's on page 119. thank you. in other words, the president was trying to force mcgahn to say something that mcgahn did not believe to be true. >> that's accurate. >> i want to reference you to a slide, it's on page 120. and it says, substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging mcgahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the special counsel terminated the president acted for the purpose of influencing mcgahn's account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the president's conduct towards the investigation. >> that's accurate. >> can you explain what you
meant there? >> i just believe -- as it appears in the report. >> so it's fair to say that the president tried to protect himself by asking staff to falsify records relevant to an ongoing investigation? >> i would say that's generally a summary. >> would you say that that action -- the president tried to hamper the investigation by asking staff to falsify records relevant to your investigation? >> i have to refer you to the report if i could for review of that -- that episode. >> thank you. also the president's attempt to give mcgahn to create a false written recorded were related to mr. trump's concerns about your obstruction of justice inquiry, correct? >> i believe that to be true. >> in fact, did the president also ask mcgahn why he had told quote -- why he had told special counsel's office investigators that the president told him to have you removed, unquote?
>> what was the question, sir? if i might. >> let me go to the next one. the president quote criticized mcgahn for telling your office about the june 17, 2017, events when he told mcgahn to have you removed, correct? >> correct. >> in other words, the president was criticizing his white house counsel for telling law enforcement officials what he believed to be the truth. >> again, i go back to the text of the report. >> well, let me go further. would it have been a crime if mr. mcgahn lied about the president ordering you to fire you? >> i don't want to speculate. >> okay. is it true that you charged multiple people associated with the president for lying to you during your investigation? >> that is accurate. >> the president complained that his staff were taking notes during the meeting about firing
mcgahn, is that correct? >> that's what the report says, yeah, the report. >> but in fact it's completely appropriate for the president's staff especially his counsel's to take notes during a meeting, correct? >> i rely on the wording of the report. >> well, thank you, director mueller, for your investigation into whether the president attempted to obstruct justice by ordering mcgahn to lie to protect the president and then to create a false record about it. it is clear that any other person would be charged with a crime. we'll continue our investigation and we will hold the president accountable because no one is above the law. >> thank you. >> gentleman from florida. >> director mueller, can you state with confidence that the steele dossier was not part of russia's disinformation campaign? >> no, i said at -- in my opening statement that that part of the building of the case was
predated me. and by at least ten months. >> but paul manafort's alleged crimes regarding tax evasion predated you but yet you had no problem charginged him and this steele dossier predated the attorney general and when senator cornyn asked him the same exact question, the attorney general said i'm quoting no. i can't state that with confidence. that's one of the areas i'm reviewing. i'm concerned about it. i don't think it's entirely speculative. now if something is not entirely speculative then it must have some factual basis but you identify no factual basis regarding the dossier or the possibility that it was part of the russia disinformation campaign. now christopher steele's reporting is referenced in your report, steele reported to the fbi that senior russian foreign ministry figures among with -- along with other russians told him that there was -- i'm quoting from the steele dossier,
extensive evidence of conspiracy between the trump campaign team and the kremlin. so here's my question. did russians really tell that to christopher steele or did he just make it all up and was he lying to the fbi? >> let me back up a second if i could and say as i have said earlier with regard to the steele -- that's beyond my purview. >> no, it is exactly your purview, director mueller and here's why. only one of two things is possible. either steele made this whole thing up and there were never any russians telling him of the vast criminal conspiracy you didn't find or russians lied to steele. now, russians were lying to steele to undermine our confidence in our duly elected president that would seem to be precisely your purview because you stated in your opening that the organizing principle was to fully and thoroughly investigate russia's interference but you weren't interested in whether or not they were interfering through steele and you should have charged him like other people. but you say nothing about this
in your report. >> well, sir -- >> meanwhile you write 3,500 words between the trump campaign and veselnitskaya. you write that the president's legal team suggested i'm quoting from the report that the meeting might have been a set-up. by individuals working with the firm that produced the steele reporting so i'm going to ask you a very easy question, director mueller. on the week of june 9, who did russian lawyer veselnitskaya meet with more frequently? the trump campaign or glenn simpson who is functionally acting as an operative for the democrat i think national committee. >> this is under investigation elsewhere -- if i can finish, sir, and if i can finish, sir, the department of justice and the fbi should be responsive to questions on this particular issue. >> but it's absurd to suggest that an operative for the democrats was meet being -- was
meeting with this russian lawyer the day before and the day after the trump tower meeting and yet that's not something you referenced. glenn simpson said he had dinner with veselnitskaya the day before and the day after the meeting with the trump team. do you have any basis as you sit here today to believe that steele was lying? >> it's not my purview -- >> it's not your purview as to whether or not steele was lying or whether anti-trump russians are lying to steele and whether or not simpson was meeting with the russians the day before and after you write about the trump campaign. i look at the inspector general's report and it states, page stated that trump is not ever going to be president, right? struck replied, no we'll stop it. there's someone identified as attorney number two, number two,
this is page 419 replied, hell no. and then added viva what resistance. number two and struck both worked on your team, didn't they? >> pardon me? yes. >> they both worked on your team? >> i heard struck who else? >> attorney number two identified in the inspector general's report. >> and the question was? >> did he work for you? >> peter strzok worked for me for a period of time. >> here's what i'm kind of noticing. when people associated with trump lied you threw the book at them. when steele lied, nothing. when glenn simpson met with russians nothing. when the trump campaign met with russians, 3,500 words and maybe the reason why there's the discrepancy and what you focused on because of the bias -- >> time has expired. mr. jefferies of new york is recognized. >> mr. mueller, obstruction of
justice is a serious cry and is at the core of finding the truth? >> correct. >> it has three elements, true? >> true. >> the first is an obstructive act. >> correct. >> it can include taking an action that would delay or interfere with an ongoing investigation as set forth in volume 2, page 77 and 78 of your report, true? >> i'm sorry. could you -- again, repeat the question. >> an obstructive act could delay or interfere with an ongoing investigation? >> that's true. >> your investigation found evidence that president trump took steps to terminate the special counsel, correct? >> correct. >> mr. mueller, does ordering the termination of the head of the criminal investigation constitute an obstructive act? >> that would be -- >> let me refer you to the report. >> let me refer you to page 87
and 88 of volume 2 where the attempt to remove the special counsel would qualify as an obstructive act if it obstructs the grand jury proceedings that flow from the proceedings q. >> yes. >> and the president in connection with an official proceeding, true? >> true. >> does the special counsel's criminal investigation into the potential wrong doing of donald trump constitute an official proceeding? >> and that's an area which i cannot get into. >> okay. president trump tweeted on june 16, 2017, quote, i am being investigated for firing the fbi director by the man who told me to fire the fbi director. witch-hunt. the june 16th tweet just read was cited on page 89 in volume
two constitutes a public acknowledgment by president trump that he was under criminal investigation, correct? >> i think generally correct. >> one day later on saturday, june 17th, president trump called white house counsel don mcgahn at home and directed him to fire the special counsel, true? >> i believe to be true. i think we have been -- i may have stated in response to questions some -- >> that is correct. president trump told don mcgahn, quote, mueller has to go, closed quote, correct? >> correct. >> your report found on page 89 of volume two that substantial evidence indicates by june 17th the president knew his conduct was under investigation by a federal prosecutor who could present any evidence of federal crimes to the grand jury. true? >> true. >> the third element second element having just been satisfied the third element of
the crime of obstruction of justice is corrupt intent, true? >> true. >> corrupt intent exists if he -- for the improper purpose of protecting his owns, correct? >> that's generally correct. >> thank you. >> the only thing i would say is we are going through the three elements of the proof of the obstruction of justice charges when the fact of the matter is we got -- excuse me a second. >> thank you. mr. mueller, let me move on in the interest of time. in learning upon the appointment of the special counsel, donald trump stated to the attorney general, oh, my god, this is terrible. this is the end of my presidency, i'm f'd, is that correct? >> correct. >> is it fair to say that he viewed the investigation into conduct as adverse to his own interest? >> i think that's generally true. >> the investigation found evidence quote, that the
president knew that he should not have directed don mcgahn to fire the special counsel, correct? >> and where do you have that quote? >> page 90, volume two. there's evidence that the president knew he should not have made those calls to mcgahn, closed quote. >> i see that, yes. that's accurate. >> the investigation also found substantial evidence that president trump repeatedly urgeled mcgahn to dispute that he was having the special counsel terminated, correct? >> correct. >> the investigation found substantial evidence that when the president ordered don mcgahn to fire the special counsel and then lie about it, donald trump one committed an obstructive act, two, connected to the initial proceeding. three, did so with corrupt intent. those are the elements of obstruction of justice. this is the united states of america. no one is above the law. no one. the president must be held accountable one way or the other.
>> let me just say, if i might, i don't subscribe necessarily to your -- to the way you analyze that, i'm not supportive of that analytical charge. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. mueller, over here. >> hi. >> i want to start by thanking you for your service. you joined the marines and led a rifle platoon in vietnam and you earned a purple heart and you led the homicide unit here in d.c., and later northern district of california. assistant attorney general for doj's criminal division and the fbi director. so thank you. i appreciate that. having reviewed your biography it puzzles why you handled your duties in this case the way you did. the report contradicts what you taught young attorneys including to ensure that every defendant is treated fairly or a
prosecutor is not the representative of an ordinary party to the controversy. but of a sovereignty. whose interest in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case but that justice shall be done and that the prosecutor may strike hard blows but not at liberty to strike foul ones. by listing the ten factual situations and not reaching a conclusion about the merits of the case, you unfairly shifted the burden of proof to the president. forcing him to prove his innocence while denying him a legal form to do so. i never heard of a prosecutor declining a case and then holding a press conference to talk about the defendant. you noted eight times in your report that you had a legal duty under the regulations to either prosecute or decline charges. despite this, you disregarded that duty. as a former prosecutor i'm also troubled by your legal analysis. you discussed ten separate factual patterns involving
alleged obstruction and then you failed to apply the elements of the applicable statutes. i looked at the ten factual situations and i read the case law and i have to tell you just looking at the flynn matter for example the four statutes that you cited for possible obstruction when i look at those concerning the flynn matter, 1503 is -- it wasn't a grand jury or a trial jury impanelled and director comey was not an officer of the court as defined by the statute. section 1505 criminalizes acts that would have obstructed or impeded administrative proceedings before congress or the administrative agency. the department of justice manual states that it's not a pending investigation. 1512-b talks about force and tampering with a witness. general flynn at the time was
not a witness and director comey was not a witness and the one talking about tampering with the record and joe biden talks about the statute being debated on the senate floor he talks about this criminalizing document shredding and there's nothing in the -- in your report that alleges that the president destroyed any evidence. so what i have to ask you and what i think people are working around in this hearing is -- let me lay a little foundation that the prosecutor have a reasonable probability of conviction to bring a charge, is that correct? >> that's generally accurate. >> okay. and the regulations concerning your job as special counsel state that your job is to provide the general attorney to explain the prosecution or the declination decisions reached by your office. you recommended declining prosecution of president trump and anyone associated with his campaign because there was insufficient evidence to convict
for a charge of conspiracy with russian interference in the 2016 election. is that fair? >> that's fair. >> was there sufficient evidence to convict president trump or anyone else with obstruction of justice? >> we did not make that calculation. >> how could you not have made the calculation? >> well, the olc opinion, office of legal counsel indicates we cannot indict a sitting president and one of the tools that the prosecutor will use is not there. >> but let me just stop. you made the decision on the russian interference. you couldn't have indicted the president on that and you made the decision on that. but when it came to obstruction you threw a bunch of stuff up against the wall to see what would stick. that is fundamentally unfair. >> i would not agree to that characterization at all. what we did was provide to the attorney general in the form of a confidential memorandum our understanding of the case. those cases that were brought, those cases that were declined.
and the -- that one case where the president cannot be charged with a crime. >> okay. but the -- could you charge the president with a crime after he left office? >> yes. >> you believe that he committed -- you could charge the president of the united states with obstruction of justice after he left office? >> yes. >> ethically? >> i'm not sure because i haven't looked at the ethic standards but the olc opinion says that the prosecutor while he cannot bring a charge against a sitting president nonetheless he can continue the investigation to see if there are other persons drawn into the conspiracy. >> time of the gentleman is expired. >> director, we are specifically focusing on five separate obstruction episodes here today. i want to ask you about the third episode. the section of your report entitled the president's efforts to curtail the special counsel
investigation beginning at page 90. by curtail, you mean limit, correct? >> correct. >> my colleagues have walked through how the president tried to have you fired through the white house counsel and the president asked others to help limit your investigation, is that correct? >> correct. >> and was corey lewandowski one such individual? >> again, can you remind me what -- >> well, corey lewandowski is the president's former campaign manager, correct? >> correct. >> did he have any official position in the trump administration? >> i don't believe so. >> your report describes an incident in the oval office involving mr. lewandowski on june 19, 2017, volume 2, page 91. >> i'm sorry is, what's the citation? >> page 91. >> of the second volume? >> yes. >> and a -- >> a meeting between mr. lewandowski and the president. >> okay. >> that was two days after the president called don mcgahn at home and ordered him to fire you, is that correct?
>> apparently so. >> right after mr. mcgahn refused to follow the order to fire you, the president came one a new plan. that was to go around all of his senior advisers and government aides to have a private citizen try to limit your investigation. what did the president tell mr. lewandowski to do? do you recall you dictated a message to mr. lewandowski for attorney general sessions and asked him to write it down, is that correct? >> true. >> did you and your team see this handwritten message? >> i'm not going to get into what we may or may not have included in our investigation. >> okay. the message directed sessions to give -- i'm quoting from your report to give a public speech saying that he planned to meet with the special counsel to explain this is very unfair. and let the special counsel move forward for future elections that's on page 91, correct question. >> yes, it is. >> in other words, mr. lewandowski a private citizen was instructed by the president of the united states to deliver a message to the attorney general that directed him to
limit your investigation. correct? >> correct. >> and at this time, mr. sessions was still recused from oversight of your investigation, correct? >> i'm sorry, could you -- >> attorney general was recused from oversight -- >> yes. >> so the attorney general would have had to violate his own rules to comply with the president's order, correct? >> i won't get into the subsidiary details. i refer you again to page 91, 92 of the report. >> if the attorney general had followed through with the president's press, mr. mueller, it would have effectively ended your investigation into the president and his campaign as you know it on page 97, correct? >> can you -- >> on page 97 you where and i quote, taken together the president's directives indicate that sessions was being instructed to tell the special counsel to end the existing investigation into the president and his campaign with the special counsel being permitted to move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections. >> generally true. yes, sir. >> it's an unsuccessful attempt
to obstruct justice is still a crime. >> that's correct. >> and mr. lewandowski tried to meet with the attorney general, is that correct? >> true. >> and he tried to meet with them in his office so he would be certain there wasn't a public log of the visit. >> according to our report. >> and the president raised the issue again with mr. lewandowski and he said, i quote, if sessions does not meet with you, lewandowski should tell sessions he was fired. correct? >> correct. >> so immediately following the meeting with the president, lewandowski then asked mr. dearborn to deliver the message, the former chief of staff, to mr. sessions and mr. dearborn refuses to deliver it because he doesn't feel comfortable. isn't that correct? >> generally correct, yes. >> so just so we're clear, mr. mueller, two days after the white house counsel don mcgahn refused to carry out the order to fire you, he directed the attorney general of the united states who was recused at the
time to limit your investigation to future investigations effectively ending your investigation into the trump campaign, is that correct. >> i won't adopt your characterization, but the facts laid out in the report are accurate. >> in your report you write on page 99 -- 97, substantial evidence indicates that the president's effort to have sessions limit the scope of the special counsel's investigation to future elections interference was intended to prevent further investigative scrutiny of the president an his campaign conduct. is that correct? >> generally. >> so mr. mueller, you have seen a letter where a thousand former republican and democratic federal prosecutors have read your report and said anyone but the president who committed those abilities would be charged with obstruction of justice. do you agree with those who came to that conclusion? >> those prosecutors -- >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. mueller, you guys -- your
team wrote in the report, quote, this is the top of page 2, volume 1, on page 173 by the way. you said that you had come to the conclusion that quote the investigation did not establish that members of the trump campaign conspired with the russian government, closed quote. that's an accurate statement? >> that's accurate. >> i'm curious when did you come to that conclusion? >> can you remind me -- which paragraph? >> top of page 2, volume 1. >> okay. and exactly which paragraph on -- >> investigation did not establish -- >> of course. i see it. >> what was your question? >> when did you personally reach that conclusion? >> well, we were ongoing for two years. >> right, you wrote it during
the two-year period and you had to come to the conclusion that i don't think there's -- there's not a conspiracy going on here. there was no conspiracy between this president and i'm not talking about the rest of the president's team, but this president and the russians. >> as you understand, developing a criminal case you get pieces of information, pieces of information, witnesses and the like. as you make your case. >> right. >> and when you make a decision on that particular case depends on the number of factors. >> right. i -- >> i cannot say specifically that we reached the decision on a particular defendant at a particular point in time. >> but it was some time well before you wrote the report. fair enough? i mean, you wrote the report dealing with a whole myriad of issues. you reached the decision okay with regard to the president himself i don't find anything here. fair enough? >> i'm not certain i agree with that. >> you waited until the last minute when you're writing the
report? >> there are various aspects of the development of -- >> sure. that's my point. there are various aspects that happen. but somewhere along the pike you will come to the conclusion there's no there there for this defendant. isn't that right? >> i can't speak -- >> you can't say when. fair enough. so -- no, i'm -- i'm asking the sworn witness. mr. mueller, evidence suggests that on may 10, 2017, approximately 7:45 a.m. six days before the dag appointed you special counsel, mr. rosenstein mentioned the appointment of the special counsel. not necessarily that you'd be appointed but you had a discussion of that. is that true? may 10, 2017. >> i don't have any -- you know, i don't have any knowledge of that occurring. >> you don't have any knowledge or you don't recall? >> i don't have any knowledge. >> evidence also -- >> given that -- are you
questioning that? >> well, i just find it intriguing. let me tell you there's evidence that suggests that that phone call takes place and that that was said. also five days before you appointed special counsel you met with mr. rosenstein in person. did you discuss that there would be a special counsel? >> i have gone into waters that don't allow me to give an answer to that particular question. it relates to the internal discussions he would have in terms of indicting an individual. >> nothing to do with indictment but with the special counsel and whether you discussed that with mr. rosenstein. . evidence suggests on may 13th, four days before you were appointed the special counsel you met with attorney general sessions and rosenstein and you spoke about a special counsel. do you remember that? >> off hand no. >> okay. on may 16 the day before you were appointed special counsel you met with the president and
rod rosenstein. do you remember having that meeting? >> yes. >> and discussion of the position of fbi director took place, do you remember that? >> yes. >> and did you discuss at any time in that meeting mr. comey's termination? >> no. >> did you discuss at any time the potential appointment of a special counsel not necessarily you, but just in general terms? >> i can't get into the discussions on that. >> how many times did you speak to mr. rosenstein before may 17th which is the day you got appointed regarding the appointment of the special counsel? how many times prior to that did you -- >> i can't tell you how many times. >> because you don't recall or you -- you just -- >> i do not recall. >> okay. thank you. how many times did you speak with mr. comey about any investigations pertaining to may 17, 2017? >> zero. >> zero. okay. now -- my time has expired. >> the time of the gentleman has
expired. gentleman from california. >> director mueller going back to the president's obstruction, corey lewandowski, it was referenced that a thousand former prosecutors with 12,000 years of federal service wrote a letter regarding the president's conduct. are you familiar with that letter? >> i have read about that letter, yes. >> and some of the individuals who signed that letter the statement of former prosecutors are people you worked with, is that right? >> quite probably, yes. >> people that you respect? >> i probably -- yes. >> and in that letter they said all of this conduct trying to control and impede the investigation against the president by leveraging his authority over others is similar to conduct we have seen charged against other public officials and people in powerful positions. are they wrong? >> they have a different case. >> you want to sign that letter, director mueller? >> they have a different case. >> thank you for your service.
going all the way back to the '60s when you served in vietnam. because i have a seat on the intelligence committee i'll have questions later and because of our limited time i will ask to enter this letter into >> without objection. >> i yield to my colleague from california, mr. liu. >> thank you, director mueller, for your long history of service to our country, including your service as a marine, where you earned a bronze star. i'd like to turn to the elements of obstruction of justice as applied to the president's attempts to curtail your investigation. the first element of obstruction of justice requires an obstructive act, correct? >> correct. >> okay. i'd like to direct you to page 97 of volume two of your report. yo wrote there on page 97, quote, session was being instructed to tell the special counsel to end the existing investigation into the president and his campaign, unquote. that's in the report, correct? >> correct.
>> that would be evidence of an obstructive act because it would naturally obstruct their investigation, correct? >> correct. >> okay. let's turn now to the second element of the crime of obstruction of justice, which requires a nexus to an official proceeding. again, page 97 of volume two. you wrote, quote, by the time the president's initial one-on-one meeting with lewandowski, existence of a grand jury investigation supervised by the special counsel was public knowledge. that's in the report, correct? >> correct. >> that would constitute evidence of a nexus to an official proceeding because a grand jury investigation is an official proceeding, correct? >> well, yes. >> okay. i'd like to turn to the final element of the crime of obstruction of justice. on that same page, page 97, do you see where there's the intent section on that page? >> i do see that. >> would you be willing to read the first sentence?
>> and that was starting with -- >> substantial evidence. >> indicates that the president's -- >> if you could read that first sentence? >> i'm happy to have you read it. >> okay. i'll read it then. >> you wrote, quote, substantial evidence indicates that the president's effort to have sessions limit the scope of the special counsel's investigation into future election interference was to prevent further investigative scrutiny of the president and his campaign's conduct, end quote. that's in the report, correct? >> that's in the report, and i rely on what's in the report to indicate what's happening in the paragraphs we've been discussing. >> thank you. so to recap what we've heard, we've 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 cory 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'd 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? >> that is correct. >> the fact that there are orders by the president not carried out, that is not a defense to obstruction of justice because the statute itself was quite broad. it says that as long as you endeavor or attempt to obstruct justice, that would also constitute a crime. >> i'm not going to get into that at this juncture. >> okay. thank you. and based on the evidence we have heard today, i believe a reasonable person could conclude that at least three crimes of obstruction of justice by the president occurred. we're going to hear about two additional crimes. that would be the witness
tamperings of michael cohen and the paul manafort. >> the only thing i want to add is i'm going through the elements with you does not mean that i subscribe to what you're trying to prove through those elements. >> time of the gentleman is expired. the gentlelady from arizona. sorry, gentleman from california. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. mueller, over here. thanks for joining us today. you had three discussions with rod rosenstein about your appointment as special counsel may 10th, 12th, and 13th, correct? >> if you say to. i have no reason to dispute that. >> then you met with the president on the 16th with rod rosenstein present. on the 17th, you were formally appointed as special counsel. were you meeting with the president on the 16th with knowledge that you were under consideration for appointment to special counsel? >> i did not believe i was under consideration for counsel.
the -- i had served two terms as fbi director. >> the answer is no. >> the answer is no. >> greg jarrett describes your office as the team of partisans. as additional information is coming to light, there's a growing concern that political bias caused important facts to be omitted from your report in order to cast the president unfairly, in a negative light. for example, john dowd, the president's lawyer, leaves a message with michael flynn's lawyer on november 2017. the edited version in your report makes it appear he was improperly asking for confidential information. that's all we know from your report, except that the judge in the flynn case ordered the entire transcript released in which dowd makes it crystal clear that's not what he was suggesting. so my question is why did you edit the transcript to hide the exculpatory part of the message? >> i don't agree with your characterization that we did anything to hide. >> well, you omitted it.
you quoted the part where he said we need some kind of heads up for the sake of protecting our interests. but you omitted the part where he said without giving up any confidential information. >> i'm not going to go further in terms of discussing -- >> let's go on. you extensively discuss activities with paul manafort. you describe him as quote, a russian ukrainian political consultant and long-time employee of paul manafort assessed by the fbi to have ties to russian intelligence. again, that's all we know from your report, except we've since learned from news articles that he was actually a u.s. state department intelligence source, yet nowhere in your report is he so identified. >> i don't necessarily credit what you're saying occurred. >> were you aware that he was -- >> i'm not going to go into the ins and outs of what we had in our investigation. >> did you interview him?
>> i can't go into discussion of our investigative moves. >> yet, that's the basis of your report. again, the problem we're having is we have to rely on your report for an accurate reflection of the evidence, and we're starting to find out that's not true. for example, your report famously links russian internet troll farms with the russian government. yet, at a hearing on may 28th in the concord management ira prosecution you initiated, the judge excoriated both you and mr. barr for producing no evidence to support this claim. why did you suggest russia was responsible for the troll farms when in court you've been unable to produce any evidence to support it? >> i'm not going to get into that any further than i already have. >> but you have left the clear impression throughout the country through your report that it was the russian government behind the troll farms. yet, when you're called upon to provide actual evidence in court, you fail to do so.
>> again, i dispute your characterization of what occurred in that proceeding. >> in fact, the judge considered holding prosecutors in criminal contempt. she backed off only after your hastily called press conference the next day in which you retroactively made the distinction between the russian government and the russian troll farms. did your press conference of may 29th have anything to do with the threat to hold your prosecutors in contempt the previous day for publicly misrepresenting the evidence? >> what was the question? >> the question is did your may 29th press conference have anything to do with the fact that the previous day the judge threatened to hold your prosecutors in contempt for misrepresenting evidence? >> no. >> the fundamental problem is, as i said, we've got to take your word, your team, faithfully, accurately, impartially, and completely described all of the underlying
evidence in the mueller report, and we're finding more and more instances where this just isn't the case. and it's starting to look like, you know, having desperately tried and failed to make a legal case against the president, you made a political case instead. you put it in a paper sack, lit it on fire, dropped it on our porch, rang the doorbell, and ran. >> i don't think you reviewed a report that is as thorough, as fair, as consistent as the report that we have in front of us. >> then why is -- >> time of the gentleman is expired. the gentleman from maryland is recognized. >> director mueller, let's go to a fourth episode of obstruction of justice in the form of witness tampering, which is urging witnesses not to cooperate with law enforcement, either by persuading them or intimidating them. witness tamper is a felony punishable by 20 years in prison. you found evidence that the president engaged in efforts, and i quote, to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation.
is that right? >> that's correct. and you have a citation? >> page seven, volume two. >> thank you. >> one of these witnesses was michael cohen, the president's personal lawyer, who ultimately pled guilty to campaign violations based on secret hush money payments to two women the president knew and also to lying to congress about the hope for a $1 billion trump tower deal. after the fbi searched cohen's home, the president called him up personally, he said to check in, and told him to, quote, hang in there and stay strong. is that right? do you remember finding that? >> if it's in the report as stated, yes, it is right. >> yes. also in the report, actually, are a series of calls made by other friends of the president. one reached out to say he was with the boss in mar-a-lago, and the president said he loves you. his name is redacted. another redacted friend called to say the boss loves you. and a third redacted friend called to say everyone knows the boss has