Mueller testified before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees in seven hours of back-to-back hearings about his report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by Trump. Mueller agreed that Trump’s conduct was problematic, that the investigation did not exonerate Trump, and that Trump did not cooperate fully with the investigation. Mueller did not to go beyond the findings in his 448-page final report and declined repeatedly to offer his opinion on questions or even to read directly from the document.
1/ Mueller: Trump “was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed,” adding that Trump could potentially be indicted after he leaves office. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler asked Mueller if Trump was “correct” that the report “found that there was no obstruction and that it completely and totally exonerated him.” Mueller replied: “That is not what the report said.” Mueller confirmed that Trump had engaged in 10 instances of obstruction of justice, which Attorney General William Barr decided not to file charges for. Mueller also confirmed that Trump refused to sit for an interview. [Editor’s note: I had to look up what “exculpated” means, because I’m not a lawyer. You’re probably not a lawyer either, so here’s what it means: to “show or declare that (someone) is not guilty of wrongdoing.” Curiouser and curiouser…] (The Guardian / NBC News / CBS News / Daily Beast / Axios / CNBC)
2/ During his House Intelligence Committee testimony, Mueller initially suggested he didn’t indict Trump because of a Justice Department policy. Mueller later clarified that because the policy prohibits the indictment of a sitting president, he “did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.” Mueller’s response, however, contradicted Barr’s claim that the OLC guidelines played no part in Mueller’s approach. Mueller also refuted Trump’s claim that the report proved “no collusion,” saying: “We did not address ‘collusion,’ which is not a legal term.” (Politico)
3/ Mueller condemned Trump’s tweets about WikiLeaks’ stolen emails during the 2016 campaign, calling it “problematic” and “an understatement.” Mueller, who earlier said Russia had launched a “sweeping and systematic” attack on American democracy, called Trump Jr.’s Twitter exchange with WikiLeaks “disturbing” and that they were subject to investigation. Meanwhile, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff asked Mueller: “Your investigation is not a witch hunt, is it?” Mueller responded: “It is not a witch hunt.” Rep. Jackie Spierer asked Mueller if Russia helping Trump was a hoax. Mueller replied: “It was not a hoax.” (CNN / NBC News)
4/ Mueller declined, deflected, or deferred nearly 200 questions, speaking only about what his report said regarding Trump, Russian interference, or obstruction of justice. Some of his responses: “I’m not going to speak to that,” “I’m not going to get into that,” “I can’t get into that,” “I can’t say,” “outside my purview,” “I’m not certain I agree with your characterization,” “I don’t subscribe necessarily to the way you analyze it,” and “I’m not going to discuss that.” Mueller also referred lawmakers to his report at least 40 times. (NBC News / CNN / ABC News / Washington Post)
5/ Before Mueller’s testimony began, Trump accused Democrats of trying to “illegally fabricate a crime” and pin it on a “very innocent President,” calling Mueller’s investigation “an illegal and treasonous attack on our Country,” questioning Mueller’s impartiality and calling him “an Embarrassment to our Country!,” adding “NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION!” Throughout the hearing, Trump tweeted quotes from Fox News and his supporters, despite claiming earlier this week that he wouldn’t watch Mueller’s testimony. Trump also complained about a request by Mueller to have his aide, Aaron Zebley, testify with him as a witness before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, declaring that “This was specifically NOT agreed to, and I would NEVER have agreed to it.” The Judiciary Committee denied the request, but allowed Zebley to appear with Mueller if the former special counsel require assistance during the hearings. (New York Times / NBC News / Mother Jones / Politico)
6/ Trump, meanwhile, claimed that Article II of the Constitution gives him “the right to do whatever I want as president.” Article II grants the president “executive power.” The comment came while addressing a crowd of teenagers and young adults at the Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit in Washington. Last month, Trump cited Article 2 as the reason why presidents can’t be charged with obstruction of justice. Trump also bemoaned the duration and cost of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Washington Post / Talking Points Memo)
poll/ 37% of voters say they believe Mueller’s investigation was carried out very or somewhat fairly, compared with 42% who say the probe was conducted “not too fairly” or “not fairly at all.” (Politico / Morning Consult)
House Democrats are prepared to pass a measure intended to improve their case for access to Trump’s financial information. The proposal would declare that any committee subpoenas related to Trump, his family, current and former White House officials and the Trump Organization are presumed to have the approval of the full House of Representatives. (Politico)
A former business partner of Michael Flynn was convicted on a pair of foreign-agent felony charges related to work the two men did for Turkish interests during Trump’s presidential campaign. Bijan Rafiekian faces up to 15 years in prison for acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the U.S., and conspiracy to violate that law as well as to submit false statements to the Justice Department in a foreign-agent filing. (Politico)
The Justice Department will not bring criminal charges against Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross following the House vote to hold them in contempt. The Justice Department was never expected to prosecute its own leader and another cabinet official. (Politico)
The House Oversight and Reform Committee scheduled a vote to hold Kellyanne Conway in contempt of Congress after she failed to comply with a subpoena to testify about her repeated Hatch Act violations. The panel will vote on Thursday. (The Hill)
The Freedom Caucus formally urged Trump to reject the bipartisan spending deal and agreement to raise the debt ceiling. The conservative group cited concerns about the impact the deal will have on the national debt as the main reason for their opposition. “Our country is undeniably headed down a path of fiscal insolvency and rapidly approaching $23 trillion in debt,” the group said in a statement. “All sides should go back to the drawing board and work around the clock, canceling recess if necessary, on a responsible budget agreement that serves American taxpayers better—not a $323 billion spending frenzy with no serious offsets.” (The Hill)
The EPA will allow the expanded use of a pesticide it considers to be toxic to bees. The announcement comes after the Trump Administration said it was suspending data collection on bee populations. (KSHB)
Afghanistan asked the United States to clarify Trump’s claim that he would “wipe [Afghanistan] off the face of the Earth” if he wanted to win the war in the country. (CNN)
North Korea launched two unidentifiable objects that traveled 267 miles into the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea. U.S. officials confirmed that North Korea had launched at least one projectile, describing it as a short range missile. (ABC News)
Trump vetoed Congress’s attempt to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia, worth more than $8 billion. Earlier this month, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate voted to block the arms deals in an effort to punish the kingdom over weapons being used against civilians in Yemen’s civil war and the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Washington Post)
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