House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., opened Robert Mueller’s highly anticipated congressional hearings on Wednesday with a fiery rebuke of President Trump’s conduct during the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Nadler referred to Mueller’s report, which found the Russian government attacked the 2016 U.S. elections “in a sweeping and systematic fashion” — attacks were designed to benefit the Trump campaign — and detailed 10 incidents of possible obstruction of justice by President Trump.
“The president’s behavior included, and I quote from your report, ‘public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate,’” Nadler said. “Among the most shocking of these incidents, President Trump ordered his White House counsel to have you fired and then to lie and deny that it ever happened; he ordered his former campaign manager to convince the recused attorney general to step in and limit your work; and he attempted to prevent witnesses from cooperating with your investigation.”
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In his report, Mueller said the Department of Justice’s standing policy prevented him from indicting Trump for obstruction. But Mueller also made clear that if he could’ve exonerated the president, he would have done so.
“Any other person who acted this way would have been charged with a crime,” Nadler said. “And in this nation, not even the president is above the law.”
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the committee, used his own opening statement to note that Mueller did not find evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Collins also said he was looking forward to hearing from Mueller about the origins of the probe, suggesting — as the president has done repeatedly — that FBI agents were out to get Trump.
In his opening statement, however, Mueller said he would not be able to address questions about the opening of the investigation, which occurred months before he was appointed special counsel, or “matters related to the so-called Steele dossier.”
And Mueller reiterated that his report did not address “collusion,” which he said is not a legal term.
Mueller said his office focused on whether there was enough evidence to charge a member of the Trump campaign with a criminal conspiracy, which it could not.