Former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThis week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Top Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction MORE signaled Wednesday that he would refuse to answer a wide swath of questions from lawmakers and would limit his congressional testimony to the four corners of his report.
In opening remarks Wednesday, Mueller said explicitly he would not answer questions about the so-called Steele dossier containing unverified allegations of Trump’s ties to Russia — a matter of interest among Republicans — nor would he describe the results of his work “in a different way” than he did on May 29.
Mueller said he would abide by the Justice Department’s instructions that he limit his testimony to the report and also reiterated his statement from late May that “the report is my testimony.”
“The Justice Department has asserted privileges concerning investigative information and decisions, ongoing matters within the Justice Department and deliberations within our office. These are Justice Department privileges that I will respect,” Mueller said, pointing to a letter from the Justice Department released Monday.
“I therefore will not be able to answer questions about certain areas that I know are of public interest,” Mueller said. “For example, 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.”
Mueller told lawmakers to direct those inquiries at the Justice Department.
Mueller delivered his opening statement to a captivated audience Wednesday morning. He began speaking around roughly 8: 45 a.m. after being introduced and sworn in by Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler: DOJ directive to Mueller is part of ‘ongoing cover up’ from Trump administration Harris, Nadler introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana Why are we permitting federal child abuse at our border? MORE (D-N.Y.).
In his opening statement, Mueller emphasized the seriousness of Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
“Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American,” Mueller said.
Mueller outlined his office’s findings, taking a moment to emphasize that he did not investigate “collusion” — an apparent swipe at President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE and his allies, who have claimed Mueller’s 448-page report vindicated Trump of allegations of “collusion” with Russia.
Members of the media and lawmakers have used the word “collusion” in exchange with conspiracy or coordination to describe the Mueller investigation. The former special counsel noted Wednesday that investigators instead probed whether there was any “criminal conspiracy” on the part of the Trump campaign.
“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Mueller said. “We did not address ‘collusion,’ which is not a legal term. Rather, we focused on whether the evidence was sufficient to charge any member of the campaign with taking part in a criminal conspiracy. It was not.”
Mueller later told Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsPelosi, Democrats launch Mueller messaging blitz Mueller testimony could be frustrating for both parties 3,100 to be released from prison under criminal justice reform law MORE (R-Ga.) that the word “collusion” should not be used synonymously with conspiracy.