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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/6/19

Selections from the Mueller Report, in the Director's Own Words

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This column is not about "The Mueller Report" and what I and many others have said about it, have represented it as saying, and have mis-represented it as saying. Rather, it is excerpts of what Director Mueller actually said, himself, about the contents of the Report that have so far been made public. It should be remembered that very significant amounts of text have been redacted from the version of the Report issued to the public and the Congress by the President's lawyer, oops, I mean the "Attorney General." Unless the Democratic nominee wins the next Presidential election --- in which case it can be assumed that the unredacted Report, except for those portions truly bearing upon national security, will be released --- it will likely be many years until the full Report is seen, unless someone with possession of it now has the temerity to leak it.

Rather, this column contains selections of what Director Mueller actually had to say himself about the Report and its contents. The Director happens to be a man of few words. Thus, the bulk of the text in this column consists of questions put to him by members of the Democratic majority of the two House Committee before which he testified on July 24, 2019. The Director's words which appear below happen to be mostly "yes" and "no," with an occasionally more extensive comment.

Robert Mueller - Great investigator; Lousy witness.
Robert Mueller - Great investigator; Lousy witness.
(Image by DonkeyHotey)
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But those words have an unusual historical significance, above and beyond any usually achieved by them. And it is for that reason that I am presenting them here. As much as the Trumpublicans (tm) and their lackeys in the media tried to either mis-represent what the Director said or spent all of their time attempting to distract public attention from the Report and its findings, often by attacking the Director and his staff in a variety of different ways, or challenging the origins of the investigation through mis-representation and distraction, the Report says what it says. And the Director said what he said, even if very briefly.

There is space here just to present a few excerpts, with the Director's very few words --- in relative terms --- highlighted. But if you had the opportunity to watch the hearings, you will know that they are pretty much representative of what went on during that day. The Hearings transcripts from which these excerpts was taken are, for the Judiciary Committee here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/transcript-of-robert-s-mueller-iiis-testimony-before-the-house-judiciary-committee/2019/07/24/7164abfe-ad96-11e9-a0c9-6d2d7818f3da_story.html, and for the Intelligence Committee here: https://hagerstownairport.org/2019/07/25/transcript-of-robert-s-mueller-iiis-testimony-before-the-house-intelligence-committee/ .

And so, first from the Judiciary Committee (understanding once again that these are excerpts. You can read the full transcripts, including the Republican questioning which I do not deal with here because virtually none of it dealt with the content of the Report at the addresses above), with Director Mueller's relatively few words highlighted.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler: The president has repeatedly claimed that your report found there was no obstruction and that it completely and totally exonerated him, but that is not what your report said, is it?

Director Mueller: Correct. That is not what the report said.

NADLER: Now, reading from page 2 of Volume 2 of your report that's on the screen, you wrote, quote, "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment," close quote.

Now does that say there was no obstruction?

MUELLER: No.

NADLER: In fact, you were actually unable to conclude the president did not commit obstruction of justice, is that correct?

MUELLER: Well, we at the outset determined that we -- when it came to the president's culpability, we needed to -- we needed -- we needed to go forward only after taking into account the OLC [Justice Dept. Office of Legal Counsel]opinion that indicated that a president -- sitting president cannot be indicted.

NADLER: So the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice, is that correct?

MUELLER: That is correct.

NADLER: And what about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the president?

MUELLER: No.

NADLER: Now, in fact, your report expressly states that it does not exonerate the president.

MUELLER: It does.

NADLER: And your investigation actually found, quote, "multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian interference and obstruction investigations." Is that correct?

MUELLER: Correct.

. . . . .

NADLER: In fact, you were talking about incidents, quote, "in which the president sought to use his official power outside of usual channels," unquote, to exert undue influence over your investigations, is that right?

MUELLER: That's correct.

NADLER: Now, am I correct that on page 7 of Volume 2 of your report, you wrote, quote, "The president became aware that his own conduct was being investigated in an obstruction of justice inquiry. At that point, the president engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation," close quote.

So, President Trump's efforts to exert undue influence over your investigation intensified after the president became aware that he personally was being investigated?

MUELLER: I stick with the language that you have in front of you, which comes from page 7, Volume 2.

. . . . .

Representative LOFGREN: To what extent did the Russian government interfere in the 2016 presidential election?

MUELLER: Well, at -- particularly when it came to computer crimes and the like, the government was implicated.

LOFGREN: So, you wrote on -- in Volume 1 that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. You've also described in your report that the then-Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, shared with the Russian operative, Kilimnik, the campaign strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states and internal polling data of the campaign. Isn't that correct?

MUELLER: Correct.

. . . . .

LOFGREN: . . . . .

Did your investigation find that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from one of the candidates winning?

MUELLER: Yes.

LOFGREN: And which candidate would that be?

MUELLER: Well, it would be Trimp -- Trump. [Oooops!]

. . . . .

LOFGREN: Now, the Trump campaign wasn't exactly reluctant to take Russian help. You wrote it expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, isn't that correct?

MUELLER: That's correct.

. . . . .

Representative JACKSON LEE: You wrote on page 178, Volume 2 in your report about corrupt intent, "Actions by the president to end a criminal investigation into his own conduct to protect against personal embarrassment or legal liability would constitute a core example of corruptly motivated conduct," is that correct?

MUELLER: Yes.

. . . . .

JACKSON LEE: Is it correct, as you further elaborate, "Obstruction of justice can be motivated by a direct desire to protect non-criminal personal interests, to protect against investigations where underlying criminal liability falls into a gray area..."

MUELLER: Yes.

. . . . .

Representative COHEN: Despite knowing that Attorney General Sessions was supposed to be in -- was not supposed to be involved in the investigation, the president still tried to get the attorney general to un-recuse himself after you were appointed special counsel. Is that correct?

MUELLER: Yes.

COHEN: In fact, your investigation found that at some point after your appointment, quote, "the president called Sessions at his home and asked if he would un-recuse himself." Is that not true?

MUELLER: It's true.

COHEN: Now, that wasn't the first time the president had asked Sessions to un-recuse himself, was it?

MUELLER: I know there were at least two occasions.

COHEN: And one of them was with Flynn, and one of them was when Sessions and McGahn flew to Mar-a-Lago to meet with the president. Sessions recalled that the president pulled him aside to speak alone and suggested he should do this un-recusal act, correct?

MUELLER: Correct.

. . . . .

One after another, the Democrats on the Committee asked Director Mueller to simply affirm the findings of the Report. One after the other, the Republicans on the Committee attacked Mr. Mueller's integrity or dealt with questions concerning the origins of the Report. I don't have to detail any of those here, for they are fully available in the transcript. But virtually none of their questions dealt with the simple facts of the Report, as confirmed by Director Muller.

And now we turn to excerpts from his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

Chairman SCHIFF: Thank you, Director Mueller. Your report describes a sweeping and systematic effort by Russia to influence our presidential election. Is that correct?

MUELLER: That is correct.

SCHIFF: And during the course of this Russian interference in the election, the Russians made outreach to the Trump campaign, did they not?

MUELLER: Yes, that occurred.

SCHIFF: It's also clear from your report that during that Russian outreach to the Trump campaign, no one associated with the Trump campaign ever called the FBI to report it. Am I right?

MUELLER: I don't know that for sure.

SCHIFF: In fact, the campaign welcomed the Russian help, did they not?

MUELLER: I think we have we report in our in the report indications that that occurred, yes.

SCHIFF: The president's son said when he was approached about dirt on Hillary Clinton that the Trump campaign would love it?

MUELLER: That is generally what was said, yes.

SCHIFF: The president himself called on the Russians to hack Hillary's emails?

MUELLER: There was a statement by the president in those general lines.

SCHIFF: Numerous times during the campaign the president praised the releases of the Russian-hacked emails through WikiLeaks?

MUELLER: That did occur.

SCHIFF: Your report found that the Trump campaign planned, quote, "a press strategy, communications campaign, and messaging," unquote, based on that Russian assistance?

MUELLER: I am not familiar with that.

SCHIFF: That language comes from Volume 1, page 54. Apart from the Russians wanting to help Trump win, several individuals associated with the Trump campaign were also trying to make money during the campaign and transition. Is that correct?

MUELLER: That is true.

SCHIFF: Paul Manafort was trying to make money or achieve debt forgiveness from a Russian oligarch?

MUELLER: Generally, that is accurate.

SCHIFF: Michael Flynn was trying to make money from Turkey?

MUELLER: True.

SCHIFF: Donald Trump was trying to make millions from a real estate deal in Moscow?

MUELLER: To the extent you're talking about the hotel in Moscow?

SCHIFF: Yes.

MUELLER: Yes.

SCHIFF: When your investigation looked into these matters, numerous Trump associates lied to your team, the grand jury, and to Congress?

MUELLER: A number of persons that we interviewed in our investigation[, as it turned] out did lie.

SCHIFF: Mike Flynn lied?

MUELLER: He was convicted of lying, yes.

SCHIFF: George Papadopoulos was convicted of lying?

MUELLER: True.

SCHIFF: Paul Manafort was convicted of lying?

MUELLER: True.

. . . . .

Representative HIMES: Director, your report opens with two statements of remarkable clarity and power. The first statement is one that is as of today not acknowledged by the president of the United States, and that is, quote, "the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion". The second statement remains controversial amongst members of this body, same page on your report, and I quote, "the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome". Do I have that statement right?

MUELLER: I believe so.

HIMES: Director Mueller, this attack on our democracy involved as you said two operations. First, a social media disinformation campaign, this was a targeted campaign to spread false information on places like Twitter and Facebook. Is that correct?

MUELLER: That's correct.

HIMES: Facebook estimated as per your report that the Russian fake images reached 126 million people, is that correct?

MUELLER: I believe that's the sum that we recorded.

HIMES: Director, who did the Russian social media campaign ultimately intend to benefit, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

MUELLER: Donald Trump.

Representative SWALLWELL: Thank you. Director Mueller, as a prosecutor you would agree that if a witness or suspect lies or obstructs or tampers with witnesses or destroys evidence during an investigation that generally that conduct can be used to show a consciousness of guilt. Would you agree with that?

MUELLER: Yes.

SWALWELL: Let's go through the different people associated with the Trump campaign and this investigation who lied to you and other investigators to cover up their disloyal and unpatriotic conduct.

. . . . .

SWALWELL: So National Advisor Flynn lied about discussions with a Russian ambassador related to sanctions. Is that right?

MUELLER: That's correct.

SWALWELL: Michael Cohen lied to this committee about Trump Tower Moscow. Is that correct?

MUELLER: Yes.

SWALWELL: George Papadopoulos, the president's senior foreign policy advisor lied to the FBI about his communications about Russia's possession of dirt on Hillary Clinton. Is that right.

MUELLER: Correct. Yes.

SWALWELL: The president's campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied about meetings that he had with someone with ties to Russian intelligence. Is that correct?

MUELLER: That's that's true.

SWALWELL: And your investigation was hampered by Trump campaign official's use of encryption communications. Is that right?

MUELLER: We believe that to be the case.

SWALWELL: You also believe to be the case that your investigation was hampered by deletion of electronic messages. Is that correct?

MUELLER: It would be, yes. Generally, any case would be if those kinds of communications are are used.

. . . . .

SWALWELL: Did you want to interview the president?

MUELLER: Yes.

SWALWELL: Director Mueller, on January 1, 2017, through March 2019, Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin in person 6 times, called him 10 times and exchanged 4 letters with him. Between that time period, how many times did you meet with Donald Trump?

MUELLER: I'm not going to I'm not going to get into that.

SWALWELL: He did not meet with you in person. Is that correct?

MUELLER: He did not.

SWALWELL: As a result of lies, deletion of text messages, obstruction and witness tampering, is it fair to say that you were unable to fully assess the scope and scale of Russia's interference in the 2016 election and Trump's role in that interference?

MUELLER: I'm not certain I would adopt that characterization in total; maybe pieces of it that are accurate but in total.

SWALWELL: But you did state in Volume 1, page 10 that while this report embodies factual and legal determinations, the office believes it to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible given these identified gaps, the office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light. Is that correct?

MUELLER: That is correct. We don't know what we don't know.

SWALWELL: Why is it so important that witnesses cooperate and tell the truth in an investigation like this?

MUELLER: Because the testimony of the witness goes to the heart of just about any criminal case you have.

SWALWELL: Thank you and Mr. Chairman, I yield back. And thank you Director Mueller.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And so, here are some excerpts from Director Mueller's Congressional testimony that highlight --- unfiltered by anyone --- some of the major findings of his Report. It is on those findings that the focus should be, as the full case is developed for removing from office, either by impeachment or the upcoming election, the first President in U.S. history who, along with the Trumpublicans (tm) in Congress, presents, as a clear and present danger, the institution of a 21stcentury form of fascism in this nation.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a “Trusted Author,” he is a Senior (more...)
 
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