Live-tweeting of the Mueller House Judiciary Committee hearing, 24 Jul 2019
Okay, here we go. I’m watching it on C-Span. Scheduled to start in about 8 minutes. I’ll be live-tweeting the hell out of this, so if you don’t want your zone flooded this morning mute me.
Enters the man.
Doug Collins: asserts that no one on the campaign wanted help in the election; no collusion or conspiracy. Nope.
Collins says he wants to know about the origins of the investigation. “Baseless gossip” indeed. Political leanings of a handful of FBI leaders. Mueller can hardly believe this.
In his opening statement: we did not address collusion which is not a legal term. Only looked at criminal conspiracy! Hold on.
We did not make a decision to reach a determination about obstruction out of fairness. That is our position today. Expresses concerns about ongoing investigations and hearings. Cannot comment on any way that might affect ongoing matter. Mentions the Stone trial especially.
Cannot address the Steele dossier (subject to ongoing review) or the opening of the investigation (which occurred before his appointment). This will be sorely disappointing to the Rs.
Will not comment today on actions and statements of the Attorney General William Barr.
Ha. Admits the Report never said there was no obstruction. Trump must be tearing out his hair and chewing the carpet.
Did not totally exonerate the president. This is going to be beyond wonderful.
The OLC opinion was only one guide. The president refused to be interviewed. Wanted this for over a year. Nadler concludes. Very competent questioning by Nadler.
Found insufficient evidence of criminal conspiracy, not no evidence. Collins: wants him to identify “collusion” and “conspiracy.” He declines to agree. Mueller only concedes a point about what it means in the law, not the way it is generally understood by the public (or Trump).
Found that the Trump campaign expected to benefit from Russia’s interference. Lofgren is good. She’s killing it on Manafort-Kilimnick relationship. Russia benefited from info given to them by Manafort. Wow! Suggests there is information that the committee has on this.
Ratcliffe. Mueller says there is no precedent for the way this was handled, because a POTUS is unique. Exactly right. Ratcliffe: Vol II not authorized. Was written in violation of DOJ guidelines. Nope. The POTUS is unique.
All the stuff that Ratcliffe throws up against the wall and hopes that it will stick is covered and deconstructed in detail in my 124 page Reader’s Guide to the Mueller Report.
Jackson Lee. Mueller says yes when she suggests that Trump had corrupt intent. To avoid personal embarrassment is a possible motive. It doesn’t have to be based on fear of criminal indictment. See my Reader’s Guide.
Sensenbrenner. Mueller says in response that the OLC opinion says you can investigate even if you don’t indict. Doesn’t mean the investigation is a “fishing expedition.” Mueller says he cannot discuss 302s etc. Ongoing stuff.
Steve Cohen. Goes after Trump for trying to get Sessions to unrecuse. The DOJ had itself advised Sessions that he had to recuse. Unrecusal is an issue, because it suggests obstruction of the investigation. Mueller seems to be pleased that the Ds are bringing up this stuff.
Cohen: AG should be the attorney general for the people of the US, not a consigliere. Mueller agrees! Cohen’s summary is great. Trump is shown to have wanted to get control over the investigation.
Steve Chabot. Wants to get into Simpson and GPS Fusion and Steele. Mueller says he cannot get into it, just as he said in his opening statement. But Chabot won’t take no for an answer. Prevezon and Natalia Veselnitskaya. Same answer. Chabot just can’t stop. “Outside my purview.”
Chabot. “Let me move on.” Good idea. But he still keeps charging ahead. This is getting embarrassing.
Hank Johnson. D Georgia. Mueller agrees that Trump ordered McGahn to fire him (Mueller). Attempted obstruction. (Attempts to obstruct also violate the law.) This is turning into a field day for Ds. Nadler must be planning formal impeachment hearings in his head as this proceeds.
Hank Johnson discussing McGahn and Trump’s reaction to the public information that an obstruction investigation had been opened. All covered in great detail in my Reader’s Guide.
Louis Gohmert. Brace yourself. Gohmert is an idiot.
Ted Deutsch. In general, Ds and Mueller are staying within the four corners of the Report. So there is nothing new here that is not in the Report (or in my Reader’s Guide). But Wow: there are some exchanges here that are going to go viral. Trump must be going nuts.
Deutsch. Anyone else would be indicted and arrested who did the same thing. But Mueller was barred because a sitting president cannot be indicted. MUELLER NODS AND AGREES. Zounds!
Getting into the letter to AG complaining about the confusion it has created in the public mind. Mueller refuses to “get into it.” Will not say whether anything in Barr’s letter is inaccurate. Wow! There is ugly stuff lurking here. He refuses to come to the defense of Barr.
Won’t say who wrote the letter, how it was “leaked” or anything. He does STAND BY THE LETTER. Barr must be freaking.
Karen Bass. D-CA. Mueller seems to be pleased that she is dredging up all the McGahn stuff. Mueller’s look seems to say: Yes, it all happened as the Report says. I can hardly believe that it happened as described myself. Wonderful.
Jim Jordan. Why didn’t you charge Mifsud for lying three times to the FBI. Mueller says: I cannot get into charging decisions. Can’t get into that. For one thing, it’s counterintel stuff. Jordan ends by saying the good news is that Barr and Durham are getting to the bottom of
how it started. They will come up with nothing. But the attack is unfair because Mueller cannot “get into that” because it’s an ongoing investigation. And Jordan knew it.
Five minute recess. Ds are cleaning up. Rs are stuck with arguing that he didn’t stick w/in the “guidelines,” when Mueller made it clear that POTUS is a singular exception. But the public is going to be gobsmacked by this stuff when they see clips on TV tonight.
So they’re not going to question the value or “propriety” of the investigation (not that it could be questioned anyway). Instead, they are going to say to themselves: if it turned up all this stuff, it was entirely justified. And they will see Mueller as totally credible.
Rep. Cedric Richmond. Takes up McGahn again. Ds are focussing on this, which makes sense. This hearing is about Vol II and obstruction, and this is the knock down case for obstruction.
Matt Gaetz. Rs are desperate to get Mueller to talk about the Steele dossier. Mueller says it is under investigation by other departments in DOJ and FBI, so it is beyond his purview. Mueller refers these questions to them.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. Mueller agrees: Trump took steps to interfere with the investigation. Jeffries is good. Gets into the nexus between obstruction of an investigation and a formal judicial proceeding. I go into this in detail in my Reader’s Guide.
Corrupt intent. Includes protecting his own interest. Agrees that Trump must have seen the investigation as “adverse to his interest.” Agrees that Trump realized he shouldn’t have made calls to McGahn. (It’s all in the Report, but Jeffries wants Mueller to say it here.)
Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO). Alleges Mueller forced Trump to prove his innocence. No: Mueller didn’t assert Trump’s guilt. He investigated, and reported his findings. A POTUS is special.
Buck is questioning the nexus in some of the 10 possible cases of obstruction of justice. I discuss this for some of the cases in detail in my Reader’s Guide. It is actually clear there was a nexus for most of the incidents.
Mueller agrees that federal prosecutors can charge a president for crimes after he leaves office. Says this is the OLC opinion too.
David Cicilline. (One of the Ds who is all for opening a formal impeachment inquiry.) Unsuccessful attempt to obstruct justice is also a crime. True. If Sessions had complied, it would have ended the investigation. Mueller agrees.
All the stuff Cicilline is going over is covered in detail in my
Reader’s Guide. Probably more accessible than Vol II of the Report itself. (I’d like to think so anyway; that’s one reason why I wrote the Guide.)
Andy Biggs (R-Arizona). Asking lots of questions about convos with Rosenstein and others about his appointment as special counsel.
Does not subscribe to Ted Lieu’s conclusion about obstruction of justice. Lieu concluded that he did obstruct justice. Whereas what the Report says is that the Office could not conclude that he did not obstruct justice. That is because a sitting president cannot be indicted.
Tom McClintock. Mueller says there has never been a more objective and fair-minded prosecutorial report than his. Probably true.
Jamie Raskin. Good. Getting into abuse of the pardon power. Dangling pardons before Cohen etc. This is very damaging stuff. (Raskin has been one of the strongest proponents of opening formal impeachment hearings.)
BTW, I think Sekulow and Giuliani have a lot of criminal exposure here. Their convos with Cohen are not covered by attorney-client privilege. (Cohen was a third party.)
Raskin alleges witness tampering. Debbie Lesko up. R-AZ. The “but for” the OLC Report stuff. No conflict. Mueller agrees with the OLC opinion himself. It’s on page 1 of the Report, Rep. Lesko!
Lesko on the March 24 letter. Once again he stands by his March 27 letter. Barr is not going to be pleased. In fact, he should be worried. And yes, the Report does cite WaPo etc. NO NO NO. The Report says that it includes this stuff not because it is true, but to give the background
explaining the Trump campaign’s response to the reporting. At least Lesko mentions this, so what is the problem?
My Reader’s Guide has a whole section on this, explaining the campaign’s response to the media coverage. So what is the problem here? I have a whole section in the Report covering this. (It comes toward the beginning.)
Pramila Jayapal. Also getting into dangling pardons, this time about Manafort. Good. Next up Reschenthaler. Questioning fairness about “dirty laundry” when there is no indictment. Same old. Same old. He couldn’t indict, so he could only report his findings.
And Mueller is right that the Report also includes exculpatory stuff. He denies the allegation that he started the investigation knowing that the report would be made public.
Val Demings up. There were limits to what he could find because witnesses didn’t tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Correa D-CA. Asking about Flynn. “Now that we’ve fired Flynn the Russia thing is over.” I quote this in my Reader’s Guide. Clear obstruction.
I emphasize in my Reader’s Guide that Trump didn’t just try to influence or direct the investigation. He wanted to shut it down, and tried several times to do this.
Rep. Ben Cline up. Geez. He’s questioning the Report’s analysis of a statute (the “shredding” clause). No, it is not an idiosyncratic interpretation of this statute. See my Reader’s Guide. Doesn’t get into the legal analysis. He relied on Dreeben. Wisely.
Yes, there is a lengthy discussion [about this statute in the Report]. And it was probably written by Dreeben. Ds should get Dreeben to testify. He would wipe the floor with guys like Cline. The disagreement is between Barr and both Mueller and Dreeben.
Mueller defends Weissmann. Good.
Mary Scanlon. Wow. Written questions about his advance knowledge of WikiLeaks dumps. But Scanlon only refers to Cohen’s testimony. But the really explosive stuff is in Vol I:55–56 of the Report, as I wrote last night.
But she’s getting close to *redacted* stuff. Scanlon: Trump denied knowledge of WikiLeaks dumps. Mueller agrees. It will be established that he did in November at the Stone trial.
Rep. Greg Steuber. R. Again refuses to respond to queries about the Steele dossier. Will not say whether he interviewed Steele. Because it’s an ongoing investigation that is being interviewed by others.
Mueller says he will not accept the characterization that he didn’t investigate Steele. Only that he will not discuss it. He cannot. Steube gets nowhere. Steube doesn’t understand that even Barr wouldn’t *want* Mueller to answers this question.
Sylvia Garcia. More questions about Stone. Pledges to refer only to unredacted material in the Report. Mueller feels uncomfortable even talking about the charging document, even though it’s public. This is a tell-tale sign of how important the Stone trial is.
Mueller totally agrees that no one is above the law.
Kelly Armstrong. In fact, it is a violation of DOJ rules to ask about a candidate’s political affiliation. (This is true both for internal candidates or candidates applying from the outside for a job.)
Joe Neguse is up. All the stuff he’s going over about Hicks and the June 9 meeting is covered thoroughly in my Reader’s Guide.
Mike Johnson. Summing up the R case. Alleging bias. No. Trump did NOT fully cooperate with the investigation. He tried to kill it numerous times, and he refused a personal interview. Geez.
Mueller can’t believe he has to listen to this shit.
More about the Steele dossier. It is not totally discredited. More false allegations. More mud throwing.
Greg Stanton. Mueller never asked about a person’s political affiliation. In fact he couldn’t. Defended everyone on his team. Good for him. Page and Strzok were dismissed because of texts, not because of their political affiliations.
Madeleine Dean. Back to the March 27 letter. Sticks by the claim that the letter makes that the Barr summary did not fully capture the conclusions…. context, nature, substance. Mueller does not back down from his criticism of Barr.
This is important stuff, b/c the House is deliberating whether to make a criminal referral on the grounds that Barr lied to Congress.
Mucarsel-Powell. Only reason why Trump did not succeed in stopping the investigation is that his associates declined to follow his orders to stop the investigation.
Mueller stays within the four corners of the Report. On the March 27 letter, he doesn’t have to say anything. He simply stands by it, and it speaks for itself. Leaving Barr to twist in the wind.
Veronica Escobar. All the Ds wrapping up go to the question of impeachment and whether he left the handling of his investigation to Congress. Mueller doesn’t go there. He doesn’t need to.
Escobar makes a good point. Trump’s determination to fight all subpoenas is proof of his continuing obstruction of justice. “It now falls on us to hold President Trump accountable.” Impeachment talk.
Nadler pounds the gavel. The HJC hearing has concluded.