Mueller re­pu­di­ates Trump exoneratio­n

Says pres­i­dent can be charged with crime af­ter leav­ing of­fice

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JEFF MORDOCK

The two-year Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion did not ex­on­er­ate Pres­i­dent Trump, former special counsel Robert Mueller told Congress on Wed­nes­day, con­tra­dict­ing the pres­i­dent’s claims and giv­ing Democrats the made-for-TV quote they hoped for.

Mr. Mueller, tes­ti­fy­ing to two House com­mit­tees, did not say Mr. Trump com­mit­ted crimes. That was not a de­ter­mi­na­tion his team was al­lowed to make, the special counsel said.

But Mr. Mueller did say Mr. Trump wasn’t truth­ful in his writ­ten tes­ti­mony to the special counsel, that the Trump cam­paign ben­e­fited from Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence then lied to cover it up, and that the cam­paign may have be­trayed Amer­i­can democ­racy.

He even said the pres­i­dent could be charged with a crime af­ter he leaves of­fice.

In per­haps his most strik­ing crit­i­cism, he said Mr. Trump was wrong to praise Wik­iLeaks for re­leas­ing Clin­ton cam­paign emails dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign.

“Problemati­c is an un­der­state­ment in terms of what it dis­plays of giv­ing some hope or some boost to what is and should be illegal be­hav­ior,” Mr. Mueller said dur­ing roughly six hours of tes­ti­mony to the House ju­di­ciary and in­tel­li­gence pan­els.

Yet the 74-year-old prose­cu­tor strug­gled at times with de­tails of his own re­port, was un­able to say there was col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia, and would not say whether the pres­i­dent de­served impeachmen­t.

Mr. Trump, speak­ing to reporters af­ter­ward, saw the tes­ti­mony as an un­qual­i­fied suc­cess for him­self.

“We had a very good day today. I think every­body un­der­stands what is go­ing on. There was no de­fense to this ridicu­lous hoax, this witch hunt,” the pres­i­dent said.

“This was a dev­as­tat­ing day for the Democrats,” Mr. Trump added.

Democrats said they saw the tes­ti­mony dif­fer­ently and called it a water­shed day.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple now re­al­ize more fully the crimes that were com­mit­ted against our Con­sti­tu­tion,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, told reporters af­ter Mr. Mueller’s tes­ti­mony. “It is a cross­ing of a thresh­old in terms of the pub­lic aware­ness of what hap­pened.”

Still, Ms. Pelosi sig­naled that Mr. Mueller’s tes­ti­mony wasn’t enough to start impeachmen­t pro­ceed­ings.

She cast it as an in­vi­ta­tion for more in­ves­ti­ga­tion, say­ing the special counsel didn’t probe the pres­i­dent’s fi­nances, but that is what House Democrats will do. She said that will show the mo­tives be­hind the pres­i­dent’s be­hav­ior.

“It means we can get the in­for­ma­tion to show the Amer­i­can peo­ple what the ob­struc­tion of jus­tice was all about,” she said.

It’s un­clear whether Mr. Mueller’s com­ments will res­onate with the ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans who, so far, ap­pear un­will­ing to sup­port impeachmen­t.

Democrats ad­mit­ted the hear­ing was an at­tempt to carve Mr. Mueller’s 448page re­port into sound-bite mo­ments that could be used to drive the is­sue home with dis­in­ter­ested Amer­i­cans.

At­tempt­ing to create those mo­ments, Democrats read from the re­port to try to goad the former prose­cu­tor into re­peat­ing some of its damn­ing con­clu­sions.

For the most part, he re­sisted, say­ing only that he stood by the re­port.

In one ex­change, Rep. An­dre Car­son, In­di­ana Demo­crat, asked whether he thought the cam­paign’s be­hav­ior was “a be­trayal of the demo­cratic val­ues our coun­try rests on.”

“I can’t agree with that,” Mr. Mueller said. “Not that it’s not true but I can­not agree with it.”

Even when Democrats thought they had a vic­tory, Mr. Mueller ap­peared to snatch it from their hands.

At sev­eral points dur­ing the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ing, Mr. Mueller in­di­cated he would have in­dicted the pres­i­dent for ob­struc­tion if not for Jus­tice Depart­ment guide­lines.

But he kicked off the in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee hear­ing by say­ing he had to cor­rect that state­ment.

“We did not make any de­ter­mi­na­tion with re­gard to cul­pa­bil­ity. We did not start that process,” he said.

His cor­rec­tion didn’t affect Democrats, who as­serted that but for the guid­ance Mr. Mueller would have brought charges.

Repub­li­cans, mean­while, brushed over Mr. Mueller’s re­peated find­ings of trou­bling be­hav­ior on the pres­i­dent’s part as he fumed at the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“This pres­i­dent has not done any­thing wrong in the process,” House Mi­nor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, told reporters. Mr. Mueller ap­peared to dif­fer. The key ex­change came early in the day when Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Jer­rold Nadler, New York Demo­crat, asked whether the re­port “did not con­clude that he did not com­mit ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.” “That is cor­rect,” Mr. Mueller replied. “And what about to­tal exoneratio­n? Did you ac­tu­ally to­tally ex­on­er­ate the pres­i­dent?” Mr Nadler fol­lowed up. “No,” re­sponded Mr. Mueller. Repub­li­cans coun­tered by get­ting Mr. Mueller to ac­knowl­edge that de­spite the pres­i­dent’s an­tipa­thy, the special counsel fin­ished its probe with­out in­ter­fer­ence.

Repub­li­cans also man­aged to trip Mr. Mr. Mueller dur­ing his tes­ti­mony.

The Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s rank­ing Repub­li­can, Rep. Doug Collins of Ge­or­gia, trapped Mr. Mueller in a con­tra­dic­tion with his own re­port over whether there was a dif­fer­ence be­tween “con­spir­acy” and “col­lu­sion.” Mr. Mueller ini­tially said there was but had to back­track af­ter shown his own re­port that said there wasn’t.

Mr. Mueller was more force­ful dur­ing the af­ter­noon’s ses­sion with the

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.