Full statement of Rep. Doug Collins, ranking GOP member of Judiciary Committee

Image: Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, speaks as former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress on July 24, 2019.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, speaks as former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress on July 24, 2019.Alex Brandon / AP

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By NBC News

Here's the full opening statement of Rep. Doug Collins, R-Georgia, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, as prepared for delivery:

For two years leading up to the release of the Mueller report and in the three months since, Americans were told first what to expect, and then what to believe.

Collusion, we were told, was in plain sight, even if the special counsel’s team didn’t find it. When Mr. Mueller produced his report and Attorney General Barr provided it to every American, we read no American conspired with Russia to interfere in our elections, but learned of the depths of Russia’s malice toward America. We are here to ask serious questions about Mr. Mueller’s work, and we will do that. After an extended, unhampered investigation, today marks an end to Mr. Mueller’s involvement in an investigation that closed last April. The burden of proof for accusations that remain unproven is extremely high — especially in light of the special counsel’s thoroughness.

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We are told this investigation began as an inquiry into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Mr. Mueller concluded they did. Russians accessed Democratic servers to disseminate sensitive information by tricking campaign insiders into revealing protected information. The investigation also reviewed whether Donald Trump sought Russian assistance to win the presidency. Mr. Mueller concluded he did not. His family and advisors did not. In fact, the report concludes no one in the president’s campaign colluded, collaborated or conspired with Russians.

The president watched the public narrative surrounding the investigation assume his guilt while he knew the extent of his innocence. Volume II of Mr. Mueller’s report details the president’s reactions to a frustrating investigation, where his innocence was established early on. The president’s attitude towards the investigation was understandably negative, yet the president did not use his authority to close the investigation. He asked his lawyer if Mr. Mueller had conflicts that disqualified Mr. Mueller from the job, but he did not shut down the investigation. The president knew he was innocent.

Those are the facts of the Mueller report. Russia meddled in the 2016 election. The president did not conspire with Russians. Nothing we hear today will change those facts. One element of this story remains: the beginnings of the FBI investigation into the president.

I look forward to Mr. Mueller’s testimony about what he found during his review of the origins of this investigation. In addition, the inspector general continues to review how baseless gossip can be used to launch an FBI investigation against a private American citizen, and, eventually, a president. Those results will be released, and we will need to learn from them to ensure government’s intelligence and law enforcement powers are never again turned on a private citizen or political candidate as a result of the political leanings of a handful of FBI agents.

The origins and conclusions of the Mueller investigation are about the same thing: what it means to be an American. Every American has a voice in our democracy, so we must protect the sanctity of their voices by combatting election interference. Every American also enjoys the presumption of innocence and guarantee of due process. If we carry anything away today, it must be that we increase our vigilance against foreign election interference while we ensure our government officials don’t weaponize their power against the constitutional rights guaranteed to every United States citizen.

Finally, we must agree that the opportunity cost here is too high. The months we’ve spent investigating from this dais have failed to end the border crisis or contribute to the growing job market. Instead, we’ve gotten stuck, and it’s paralyzed this committee and this House. Six and a half years ago, I came here to work on behalf of the people of the Ninth District of Georgia and this country.

We accomplished a lot in those first six years through bipartisanship. However, this year, because of the majority’s dislike of this president, the endless hearings into a closed investigation have caused us to accomplish nothing except talk about the problems our country is facing. This hearing is long overdue. We’ve had the truth for months — no American conspired to throw our elections. What we need today is to let that truth bring us confidence and closure.