Mueller corrects earlier answer to Lieu
Mueller opened up his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee by correcting a remark he made earlier in the day during an exchange with Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.
"Now before we go to questions, I want to add one correction to my testimony this morning," Mueller said. "I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu, who said, 'You didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion.' That is not the correct way to say it. As we say in the report, and as I said in the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime."
When questioned by Lieu, who asked if he “did not indict Donald Trump” because of a 2000 Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memo advising against the indictment of a sitting president, Mueller had said, “That is correct.”
That comment led to some confusion over whether Mueller was saying that but for the memo, he would have indicted Trump. His more than 400-page report on Russian interference made clear the OLC memo led him to rule out from the start any possible Trump indictment. And in early May, Attorney General William Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Mueller "reiterated several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found obstruction.”
Still, as was made clear in the report, Mueller said in the first session that Trump could face an indictment for obstruction of justice after leaving office.
Democrats don’t see momentum for impeachment right now
WASHINGTON — Robert Mueller’s testimony is unlikely to reverse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance to launch immediate impeachment proceedings against President Trump, instead lending momentum towards calls for more congressional investigations, Democratic lawmakers and top aides told NBC News.
“He was clear about the things that counted, that he did not exonerate the president, that there were multiple instances of obstruction of justice” Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Penn., told NBC News. "We absolutely have to” call in more witnesses, she said.
“I think it’s a very important first day,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Penn, said. “Some people are saying this is the last day. This is the beginning.”
Senior Democratic Intelligence Committee officials who briefed reporters after their hearing said Mueller’s articulation of national security risks that can come from foreign contacts, among other issues, "raises a lot more questions” to pursue.
In a press conference after the hearings, Pelosi was asked by NBC News whether her views had changed on impeachment. "My position has always been whatever decision we made in that regard would have to be done with our strongest possible hand, and we still have some outstanding matters in the courts," she said. "It's about the Congress, the Constitution, and the courts. And we are fighting the president in the courts."
Pelosi told Democrats in a closed-door meeting Wednesday evening that the president has engaged in wrongdoing.
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said that Pelosi told members that they can come out for impeachment if that’s what they thought was right based on the testimony. “She was more clear today about” telling members to support impeachment if they want than she has been in the last, Demings said.
Still, Democrats close to the speaker cautioned that the proceedings are unlikely to change her go-slow approach.
Robert Raben, an assistant attorney general under Bill Clinton who is close to Pelosi’s office and has been advising House and Senate Judiciary members, said “if someone was hoping that this would be the surge toward a tipping point, that wasn’t the case.”
“The ground did not shift (on impeachment),” Raben told NBC. “Pelosi’s strategy of investigate, legislate and litigate will remain intact,” he said.
Three Democratic aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the hearings won't cause Pelosi to reverse course.
“The question is how many (Democratic) members come out for it and what’s the threshold that makes it uncomfortable and unsustainable for her” to resist impeachment. Prior to the hearings, there were 88 Democrats who’ve publicly called for an impeachment inquiry.
“If we get into triple digits and 45-50% it might be harder for her” to resist, the aide said.
Alex Moe contributed
GOP to Democrats: 'It's time to move' on
GOP leaders held a press conference on Wednesday following Mueller’s testimony and excoriated Democrats for signaling in their own earlier, separate press conference that they would continue to build off of Mueller’s investigation and probe Trump.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said Mueller did not say what the Democrats wanted to hear and that they only want to run “dog and pony shows.”
Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking member of the Oversight Committee, and Devin Nunes of California, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, also claimed that the hearings cleared the president of wrongdoing and said that the real issue is the origins of the investigation.
“The only people to be hurt in this is the American people,” said House Minority Speaker Kevin McCarthy. “This should be the end of the chapter of this book that we put America through.”
He added, “It’s time to move past the 2016 election.”
Pelosi stays course on impeachment, Nadler to go to court over Mueller grand jury info, McGahn subpoena
Pelosi said Wednesday evening that her position on whether the House pursues impeachment has not yet changed following Mueller's testimony.
"My position has always been whatever decision we make in that regard would have to be done with our strongest possible hand, and we still have some outstanding matters in the courts,” she said at a news conference, flanked by three of her committee chairmen, when NBC News’ Kasie Hunt asked whether the Mueller hearings changed her thinking on impeachment.
“If we have a case for impeachment, that’s the place where we’ll have to go,” she added, saying, “The stronger our case is, the worse the Senate will look for letting the president off the hook.”
Nadler said at the news conference that by the end of the week, he'll ask the courts for the grand jury information in the Mueller report and to enforce a subpoena issued to former White House counsel Don McGahn.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Mueller’s testimony “was a giant step in making sure that the American people got a picture of all of this.”
Mueller left trail of impeachment breadcrumbs for Democrats
There was no made-for-TV moment, but former special counsel Robert Mueller still delivered plenty of breadcrumbs for Democrats who want to follow the politically risky trail toward an impeachment of President Donald Trump.
For all the star power Mueller lacked, he offered up just as much in the way of substance.
But if Democrats want to impeach Trump, they're going to have to take his work, build on it, prove the case — and hope it doesn't blow up in their faces politically.
Read more on what today's hearings brought to the impeachment debate here.
'Historic': Pelosi reacts to Mueller testimony
At a press conference later on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the Mueller testimony "historic."
“It is a crossing of the threshold in terms of public awareness,” she said.
She also noted that the Mueller report did not include information about Trump's personal finances, which is something that Democrats in Congress have been pursuing on their own.
Republicans holding news conference on Mueller's testimony
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is holding a press conference with Reps. Jordan, Collins and Nunes at 6 p.m. to discuss Mueller's testimony, McCarthy's office announced.
Trump: Mueller's testimony 'a great day for me'
Trump painted Muller's testimony before Congress as a win on Wednesday, calling it "a great day for me" and brushing off questions about the fact that Mueller did not explicitly clear him of wrongdoing.
"He didn't have the right to exonerate," Trump told reporters as he was leaving the White House en route to a fundraiser in West Virginia, despite his repeated prior claims that the report represented "total exoneration." "That was something where he totally folded, because he never had the right to exonerate," the president added.
Mueller did "very poorly" during his testimony, Trump said, adding that “in all fairness, he had nothing to work with.”
When asked by NBC News if he was concerned about the potential of being indicted once he was out of office — a topic that caused some confusion during the testimony — Trump did not offer an answer, instead calling the reporter "fake news."
Trump thanked Republicans for their performance during the pair of Mueller hearings Wednesday, applauding them as "incredible warriors" who defended the country.
“In the end, they didn’t get away with it,” Trump said of Democrats.
House Intelligence Dems talk takeaways, next steps
Democratic officials on the Intelligence Committee held a background briefing after the second Mueller hearing to discuss key takeaways and next steps.
Here are some of the takeaways:
- The possibility of an ongoing FBI investigation involving Michael Flynn was something new they learned, but they directed further questions to the FBI.
- Mueller’s articulation of national security risks that can come from foreign contacts and lies about such contacts "raises a lot more questions about Jared Kushner,” an official said.
- Mueller’s testimony in response to questions from Rep. Demings suggesting that Trump’s written answers to the special counsel's questions were generally untruthful is particularly noteworthy, they said.
- He “obviously went beyond the four corners of the report” about issues in the first volume, an official said. "So we have a lot of work to do, because it's incumbent upon our committee to bring to light whether any foreign policy decisions are being motivated by compromise, or personal interest, as opposed to the national interest.”
And some next steps:
- Officials declined to put a timeline on the committee’s investigation or discuss how their findings ultimately would be presented to the public, or whether the effort potentially could be rolled into an impeachment probe. "To be honest, I think what has become clear is there's a lot, a lot of fact-gathering that still is required,” one official said. “No investigation operates properly with an end date."
- “We have ongoing investigations that are open," an official said. "The financial investigation is one that will get more attention” now that Mueller is over.
- They had been working to bring Rick Gates and Michael Flynn in for interviews as soon as this work period, but that was tabled when the Mueller hearings were postponed by a week. "But we continue to speak to their lawyers about them complying with the subpoena," an official said, adding, "We've received some documents … and I have gotten indication that there are going to produce more. And then ... we're going to regroup and try to schedule their testimony for September.
Fact check: Nunes claims Democrats colluded with Russia
"There is collusion in plain sight. Collusion between Russia and the Democratic Party. The Democrats colluded with Russian sources to develop the Steele dossier," Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., alleged during his opening statement.
There's no evidence that the Democratic Party colluded with the foreign adversary that, according to the conclusions of the intelligence community and the results of Mueller's investigation, was working to elect their political opponent. And while inquiries into the origins of the Russia investigation are ongoing within the Department of Justice, there is no publicly available evidence of the kind of extensive conspiracy Nunes is alleging.
Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee, through a lawyer, did foot the bill for Washington-based research firm Fusion GPS to probe then-candidate Trump and his ties to Russia. Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele, a British ex-spy and Russia expert, to do the work, and Steele ultimately penned an explosive report — the "dossier" — that included unverified claims that the Russian government was working with Trump and that the president was filmed with prostitutes in Moscow.
(Clinton has said she did not know of Steele's efforts, and her campaign has pointed out that the practice of gathering opposition research on rival political candidates is routine.)
But the FBI also used Steele as a paid informant for an unknown period of time. While the FBI noted in official proceedings that Steele was initially hired by political opponents, they also said they viewed him as credible.
Politico, citing two sources familiar with the Justice Department probes, reported earlier this month that Steele was interviewed by the DOJ internal watchdog in June.
Nunes' office did not immediately respond to a request for additional information. Mueller, for his part, repeatedly declined to answer any questions about Steele or the dossier. "These matters are the subject of ongoing review by the Department," Mueller told the House Judiciary Committee.
Dems to hold post-hearing news conference
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will join Schiff and Nadler for a news conference at about 5 p.m. following today’s two Mueller hearings, a committee spokesperson said.
Trump spikes the football after Mueller’s testimony ends
Trump spikes the football after Mueller’s testimony ends
Moments after Mueller’s testimony ended, Trump chimed in with a tweet.
“TRUTH IS A FORCE OF NATURE,” Trump wrote.
And just before that, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale released a statement on behalf of the campaign claiming a total victory for the president.
“These hearings were a disaster for Democrats,” Parscale wrote. “This entire spectacle has always been about the Democrats trying to undo the legitimate result of the 2016 election and today they again failed miserably.”
Mueller detailed various elements of his report throughout the day, insisting that he had not exonerated Trump.