Former special counsel Robert Mueller refused to answer questions Wednesday regarding the so-called Steele dossier, the opposition research document Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign commissioned in 2016, which contained allegations about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
In a tense exchange with Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., Mueller disputed the assertion by Republicans on the committee that the dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, was the basis for an FBI investigation that would eventually be incorporated into the special counsel’s probe.
“You had two years to investigate,” Steube said. “Not once did you deem it worth to investigate how an ‘unverified’ document that was paid for by a political opponent was used to obtain a warrant to spy on the opposition of a political campaign. Did you do any investigation into that —”
“I do not accept your characterization of what occurred,” Mueller replied.
Trump has long asserted that the dossier was the basis for what he has described as a “witch hunt” against him.
Wow! FBI made 11 payments to Fake Dossier’s discredited author, Trump hater Christopher Steele. @OANN @JudicialWatch The Witch Hunt has been a total fraud on your President and the American people! It was brought to you by Dirty Cops, Crooked Hillary and the DNC.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2019
In his opening statement Wednesday, Mueller made clear that he would not be able to speak further about the Steele dossier.
“I am unable to address questions about the opening of the FBI’s Russia investigation, which occurred months before my appointment, or matters related to the so-called Steele dossier. These matters are the subject of ongoing review by the department,” Mueller said.
But that didn’t stop Republicans on the committee from trying to keep the focus of the hearing on Steele.
“When did you become aware that the unverified Steele dossier was included in the FISA application to spy on Carter Page?” Steube asked Mueller.
“I’m not going to speak to that,” the former special counsel answered.
“Your team interviewed Christopher Steele, is that correct?” Steube pressed.
“I’m not going to get into that,” Mueller replied.
In earlier questioning, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., also pursued the same line of inquiry.
“Do you have any basis as you sit here today to believe that Steele was lying?” Gaetz asked Mueller.
“It’s not my purview,” Mueller replied.