We Watched Robert Mueller’s 7-Hour Testimony So You Don’t Have To

We’ve said it before, we may never say it again: It’s Mueller Time.

Today, former special counsel Robert Mueller was dragged off his couch to testify before members of Congress, despite his repeated public claims that he had nothing to say. Honestly, we get it.  

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Mueller was subpoenaed and, unlike a number of Trump associates who have ignored legal requirements to appear, the 74-year-old showed up at 8:30 a.m. for two separate hearings. The first, before the House Judiciary Committee, focused on the Mueller Report’s findings on obstruction of justice, and how Trump’s associates, and potentially (probably) (definitely) the president himself, attempted to influence Mueller’s investigation. The second, before the House Intelligence Committee, concerned Russian meddling, and how much Trump and his campaign knew about and encouraged attempts to influence the presidential race. 

Democrats spent most of their time asking Mueller yes or no questions that would lead him to restate the more damning details of the 448-page report. Republicans spent their time screaming at an old man and calling Mueller and the investigation “un-American,” “disruptive to the American people” and a “perpetuation of injustice” intent on destroying the president. (Bob Mueller is a lifetime public servant and veteran who has a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and a Navy Commendation Medal and served as FBI director in the aftermath of 9/11.) He’s also a Republican.

Mueller answered probably 70 percent of questions with fancy lawyer ways to say “no comment,” such as “that’s classified,” “that’s outside my purview,” “I cannot adopt that characterization,” “it’s in the report” and “I won’t speak to that.”

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And though the hearings largely confirmed information that very invested watchers have long known, there were a few moments when Mueller appeared to affirm that Trump’s behavior could meet the standard for obstructing justice — always reiterating that he was barred from making that call. As a reminder, Mueller has said his team followed  guidance from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that states a sitting president cannot be indicted. For that reason, Mueller has said that he didn’t necessarily decide that Trump didn’t obstruct justice, but that he decided not to decide

Here are some of the biggest moments from both hearings: 

Mueller confirmed that his report did not “totally exonerate” the president

You know how the women’s national team scored in the first 12 minutes of nearly every World Cup match? This was kind of like that, but if the game ended in a tie and your opponents just fouled you the whole time.

Nevertheless, just minutes into the hearing, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) got Mueller to vocalize one of the most distorted elements of his investigation: whether or not he exonerated the president of obstructing justice. Here is their exchange: 

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

Mueller: That is correct

What about total exoneration? Can you totally exonerate the president?

Mueller: No. 

… But he clarified repeatedly that he didn’t decide not to prosecute, he decided… not to decide

“Decided not to decide” is the “we were on a break” of the Mueller investigation and its aftermath —  repeated often and honestly kind of annoying after a while. But for a moment — we thought we’d get a different answer when Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California explicitly asked Mueller if he would have indicted the president if it weren’t for the Office of Legal Counsel guidelines against indicting a sitting president:

“I’d like to ask you the reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?” Lieu asked. “That is correct,” Mueller replied. 

This felt like an explosive moment — that Mueller had escalated his go-to statement of “we decided not to decide” to “we decided but couldn’t pursue it.” But Mueller quickly qualified his answers.

“The only thing I want to add is I’m going through the elements with you. That does not mean I subscribe to what you’re trying to prove through those elements,” he said.

After taking a short break, Mueller took a moment before his second hearing to further clarify the earlier statement, reiterating that the OLC guidelines influenced their decision — you guessed it — not to decide whether to prosecute or not, and that it would not be correct to say he would have prosecuted if it weren’t for those guidelines. 

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Mueller appeared to agree with statements implying Trump obstructed justice

One time I saw my colleague’s boyfriend hooking up with a co-ed at my younger cousin’s birthday, but only mentioned that I saw him at a college party, which was incriminating enough that if homegirl couldn’t read between the lines, she didn’t want to know. This felt kind of like that. The Mueller Report details 10 instances in which Trump potentially obstructed justice. One involves instructing his White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller. (He refused — later saying Trump had asked him to do some “crazy sh*t.”) But later, Trump reportedly asked McGahn to create a false record stating that Trump had never asked him to fire Mueller.  McGahn again refused. Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond asked Mueller if he believed Trump wanted to falsify records to cover up the fact that he attempted to hamper the investigation. Also known as obstructing justice. 

“I believe that to be true,” Mueller said. 

“So it’s accurate to say the president knew that he was asking to deny facts that McGahn ‘had repeatedly said were accurate.’ Isn’t that right?” Richmond followed up. 

“That’s correct,” Mueller said. 

Trump could be charged with a crime after he leaves office 

A Republican accidentally got Mueller to say Trump could totally be charged after he leaves the office. I believe in soccer we call this an “own goal.”

In the first hearing, GOP Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado pursued a line of questioning intended to defend Trump, but it totally backfired:

To be fair, Mueller wasn’t saying, “Trump specifically should be charged” when he leaves office,  just that it becomes an option when he does. But in eliciting this response, Buck accidentally got Mueller to confirm that these woes won’t leave Trump once he leaves the office. 

Mueller said Trump’s written statements to his questions were “generally” untruthful

There were very few moments when Mueller said anything he hasn’t already written in the report. That was until Democratic Rep. Val Demings of Florida got to him. Mueller asked Trump for an in-person interview throughout the investigation, which the president repeatedly refused. Mueller reiterated today that he did not subpoena the president because he knew Trump would put up a legal fight and it wasn’t worth prolonging the investigation another year to force him to show.

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Instead, Trump provided written answers to a series of questions. Demings asked Mueller if it was “fair to say that the president’s written answers … showed that he wasn’t always being truthful,”

Mueller said that was “generally” fair to say, but declined to say whether he felt the president was “credible” in his answers. Yes, this exchange felt like a Bachelorette contestant trying to deny he has a girlfriend without saying “I don’t have a girlfriend.”

Mueller denied Republican claims that his prosecution team was pro-Clinton 

Nobody misses Hillary Clinton more than the GOP. In his questioning, Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong implied members of Robert Mueller’s team had conflicts of interest because they appeared to favor Hillary Clinton politically, demonstrated either through donations to her campaign or prior affiliations with her and her associates. (She and Bill have been in Washington for 100 years. Show me who hasn’t.) Mueller defended his team, noting their political affiliation is not relevant to their ability to investigate issues of national importance. 

In “25 years I have not had occasion, once, to ask somebody about their political affiliation. It is not done,” the former special counsel said. “What I care about is the capability of the individual to do the job and do the job quickly and seriously and with integrity.” 

He wouldn’t say if he thinks the president should be impeached

Who among us hasn’t complained endlessly about a colleague while recoiling at the thought of them being fired? In May, Mueller made a public statement stating he could not make a determination about whether to prosecute the president, there are other ways our government can pursue deeper investigation. Many on the left saw this as an explicit nudge to begin impeachment proceedings, as only Congress can. But today, Mueller largely demurred from that question. 

Responding to Rep. Mike Johnson’s assertion that the report “does not recommend impeachment,” Mueller said he was “not going to talk about recommendations.” When Johnson pushed him to confirm he did not make any conclusion that impeachment would be appropriate, Mueller doubled down: “I’m not going to talk about that issue,” he said. 

Mueller never wanted to be Trump’s FBI director

Sure, we all love when an early-season favorite makes a return in the show’s later years (with a notable exception to Aidan the SATC movie.) But looks like in this case, it was never gonna happen. One of Trump and his supporters’ main beef with Mueller is that he is “compromised” and biased against the president, partly because, as they claim, Mueller wanted to be FBI director (again) but Trump didn’t offer him the job. Reminder: Mueller was already FBI director, for 11 years. Today, Mueller confirmed he had no interest in the job. He simply advised the president about what it entails. 

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The Russians interfered in our elections in a “sweeping and systematic fashion,” a fact the president still denies

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Nothing unites a room of awkward acquaintances like a shared enemy. Mueller affirmed Russia’s malice in opening statements to both committees and became most animated when lawmakers asked him about the dangers of the election interference.  Asked by the intelligence committee if the investigation into Russian meddling was a “witch hunt,” as the president has characterized it, Mueller said “I like to think no. No.” He confirmed several times that Russian meddling was designed to benefit the Trump’s bid for the presidency and that his campaign was aware of this fact, and that characterizing the idea of Russian meddling as a “hoax” is absolutely incorrect. 

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Mueller condemned Trump’s love affair with WikiLeaks and criticized “boosting” of election interference

These moments brought us Mueller’s most full-throated critique of the president. Trump is on record praising WikiLeaks and encouraging the Russians to hack and release Hillary Clinton’s emails. Yeah, remember that time a candidate for president — and the eventual president — urged a foreign power to interfere in our elections? You bet your butt that came up in the second hearing on Russian meddling. 

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) quoted Trump’s love letters to Wikileaks — ultimately responsible for releasing emails from the Democratic National Committee that compromised Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Here’s a selection: 

“Wikileaks, I love Wikileaks.”

“This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.”

“Boy I love reading those Wikileaks.”

When Quigley asked Mueller if he found those statements disturbing, Mueller replied: “Problematic would be an understatement,” and that Trump gave a “boost” to “what should be legal activity” — actions that “certainly calls for an investigation.” 

Trump’s campaign associates attempted to benefit financially from the presidential election and lied to cover it up 

Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff pummeled Mueller with yes or no questions related to the Trump campaign’s coziness with Russians throughout the election. Schiff got Mueller to confirm that: Russians had multiple contacts with multiple members of the Trump campaign, that members of the campaign attempted to benefit financially, that Paul Manafort was hoping a Russian oligarch would forgive his debt, and Trump hoped to make money from a Trump Moscow tower. And, perhaps most damningly, that the campaign lied to cover it all up.

Now What?

While some Democrats are already renewing calls for impeachment following the hearing, Trump and his supporters are also celebrating. The hearing today offered no bombshells but confirmed and elucidated the president’s support of election interference and likely attempts to block an investigation into his associates inappropriate and in some cases criminal, affiliations with foreign agents — all things we already knew.

Here’s What We Learned From Robert Mueller’s First IRL Statement

Everyone shut up! Robert Mueller has something to say. Today, the man behind the curtain came forward in a very rare public appearence to get a few things off his chest. When a man of power, well-tailored suits, and possibly information to kick Trump out of office speaks, we listen with bated breath.

So what did we learn?

He Is Resigning And Closing The Special Counsel’s Office

Unfortunately, the “he” in this case is Robert Mueller and not Donald Trump. With the conclusion of the Special Counsel report, Mueller is closing the office and retiring to private life. I doubt there’s going to be a big bash with goodbye tequila shots for his departure. More likely there will be a solemn greeting card from CVS passed around the office that everyone has to sign.

He Did Not Clear Trump

While Trump’s fingers are about to fall off from tweeting NO COLLUSION NO OBSTRUCTION 200 times a day, Mueller restated that this was not the point made by his report. “If we could say with confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” he said.

There it is folks pic.twitter.com/eqrzPzzJxh

— The Betches Sup (@Betches_Sup) May 29, 2019

Take your time untangling the double negatives, but basically, he is saying Trump is up to some shady stuff. He emphasized that his office chose to follow a Justice Department policy that states a sitting president cannot be indicted “even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view,” Mueller said, adding: “Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.”

As such, the report states that Mueller’s team “determined not to apply an approach that that could potentially result in a judgment that the president committed crimes.” Def thought that’s what they’ve been doing for two years, but okay.

So because Trump could not be indicted, Mueller determined it would be inappropriate to pursue any conclusion that would result in charges. Why? Because any trial that could prove guilt or exonerate Trump would have to wait until after his presidency or it would, obviously, impact his ability to govern. (Is that what we’re calling it?) However, the hottest tea from today’s statement — or at least, tea that’s become lukewarm since the report and Mueller popped in the microwave for a minute — relates to whether the office determined that he did not commit a crime. Mueller encouraged us to highlight and underline the parts in his report that say “we can’t say he didn’t commit a crime” and to rest assured that if they had determined “no obstruction,” they would have said so.

Today’s statement also affirms that Attorney General Bill Barr dramatically understated how limited Mueller felt by the Justice Department’s policy. Barr had previously suggested that Mueller found no evidence of a crime and the policy barring him from bringing charges was almost irrelevant. Based on Mueller’s report and statements today, that is not the case. The policy, it seems, had a definitive impact on the investigation.

 

He’s Not Going To Testify

What we read is what we’re going to get. Despite many of us wanting an extensive Sparknotes version of the report, Mueller is being an annoying English teacher and is like “the text speaks for itself.” He does not want to testify any further and kept referring to his report as the final word. He’s pretty clear about that. It’s like his old man version of constantly reminding everyone he studied abroad. We get it.

Mueller's statement about whether he will or won't testify is so confusing. In it he:
1. says his report is his testimony
2. says he will not add anything addition if he does testify
3. says he does not want to speak about other departments
4. does not expressly refuse to testify pic.twitter.com/Jv5BwFSQj7

— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) May 29, 2019

 

Is It A Call For Impeachment?

Some folks, especially the Democrats (duh) believe this is Mueller advocating for an impeachment. When Mueller reiterated that his office was unable to make a determination on obstruction of justice or suggest a penalty for any wrongdoing they did find, he noted that “the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,” he said. Incidentally, that process is impeachment.

If that’s what the tea leaves are saying, so be it. Happy to clear my important schedule of watching RHONY re-runs and watch an impeachment hearing. Nancy Pelosi continues to stall on impeachment, but many lawmakers (especially ones running for president, which is most of them) took Mueller’s words as a call to arms.

What Robert Mueller basically did was return an impeachment referral. Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable.

We need to start impeachment proceedings. It's our constitutional obligation.

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) May 29, 2019

It's time for Congress to begin impeachment hearings and follow the facts. Robert Mueller clearly expects Congress to exercise its constitutional authority and take steps that he could not. We can't let the president defy basic accountability measures built into our Constitution.

— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) May 29, 2019

Mueller’s statement makes clear what those who have read his report know: It is an impeachment referral, and it’s up to Congress to act. They should.

— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 29, 2019

Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear: Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.

— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) May 29, 2019

Mueller to Congress pic.twitter.com/dVPqvfsVie

— David Dennis Jr. (@DavidDTSS) May 29, 2019

 

Bill Barr, Miranda Kerr, and Trump’s Victory Committee: WTF Is This Scandal?

If you had told me 10 years ago that my favorite TV programming would one day be day-long congressional testimonies, I would’ve probably said…that sounds about right. Because I’ve always been and always will be a huge nerd. Anyway, these days congressional testimonies are like, totally a thing and yesterday’s showing by Attorney General William Barr was no exception.

For those who have jobs preventing them from watching hours of C-SPAN with the analytical prowess usually reserved for “Game of Thrones,” the Barr hearing was a bit more subdued than the blockbuster dramas spawned of the Kavanaugh and Cohen hearings, but that’s only because Bill Barr is masterful at the strategy of not answering a single question in order to avoid a perjury charge. Mind you, I’m calling this hearing “low-key” despite the fact that it resulted in multiple Democrats calling for Barr’s resignation. That’s just a regular Wednesday now.

As this hearing was a little low on scandalous soundbites and meme-able moments, you may have missed some of the more esoteric questions about Barr’s deeply manipulative approach to law enforcement (that’s me giving you the benefit of the doubt here Bill, because in reality I think you are prob a straight up cRiMiNaL).

One of these questions came from Senator Dick Durbin (D-CT-DUH) who spent his time asking Barr whether or not he had discussed with the president the 14 other criminal investigations that had been spun off the Mueller investigation (remember when Hillary had that many investigations spun off her emails?). Also whether he will recuse himself, which was obviously a nah.

Not only did Barr refuse to recuse (someone should put that on a shirt – you’re welcome for the idea, MAGA people) from those 14 spinoff investigations, but there was another case that Durbin asked about: the 1MDB case. While this initially seemed like it didn’t have anything to do with Trump (a rare thing these days), it turns out that it actually does. Sigh. Because as we can see through things like fraternity rush, scum always manages to find each other. And surprise surprise, Bill Barr has a conflict of interest in this case too, as well as yet another opportunity to protect Trump from having his financial schemes prosecuted.

The 1MDB case is a wild financial scandal involving Leonardo DiCaprio, Miranda Kerr, and the prime minister of Malaysia. That’s not a Zoolander joke, it’s real. So what’s a bridge troll like Bill Barr doing amongst all these hot people?

An explanation:

What is 1MDB?

1MDB stands for 1 Malaysia Development Berhad. It was founded by a lil scammer named Jho Low, a guy who climbed the ranks of Malaysian society to become embedded amongst the upper echelons. He was known for throwing insanely lavish parties around the world and spending unnecessary amounts of money in an effort to show how rich he was, while actually running a Ponzi scheme and money laundering operation. Praise be, we have a bigger, better Billy McFarland.

After a lot of desperate but effective social climbing, Jho Low became friends with the prime minister of Malaysia. His ties to the prime minister enabled him to establish 1MDB, which was ostensibly a sovereign wealth fund for Malaysia, funded partly by the Malaysian taxpayers, and partly by investors like Goldman Sachs and other (real) sovereign wealth funds. In reality, it was a complete front, used to line the pockets of Jho Low, the prime minister/his cronies, and fund random expensive vanity projects, all while essentially pilfering the country rather than legitimately investing its funds.

As with any good scam, 1MDB had barely any employees but used the legitimate-sounding idea of being the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund in order to get people to give them money to allegedly fund infrastructure projects in Malaysia and oil business with the Gulf states (what else is new). They then laundered large portions of the money that was lent to them into offshore bank accounts in the Seychelles, Cayman Islands, and Switzerland (be more obvious). Once laundered, they used the money, estimated at totaling $4.5 billion, for the following: parties, private jets, champagne, giant diamonds for the prime minister’s wife and Miranda Kerr (yes really*), financing the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, flying celebrities like Jamie Foxx and Swizz Beatz around to emcee the aforementioned parties, and other passé billionaire activities.

This whole thing came under DOJ investigation when the prime minister’s stepson made some sketchy property purchases with money from 1MDB, which essentially led to the whole thing being uncovered. Goldman Sachs also came under investigation for money laundering after lending 1MDB $3 billion dollars, while Goldman Sachs bro Tim Leissner pled guilty to skimming more than $200 million off of these transactions.

How Is Bill Barr Involved?

Goldman Sachs, which really should have known better, is being represented in the DOJ investigation by the law firm Kirkland and Ellis, where Bill Barr used to work. And when I say “used to work” I don’t mean like, five jobs ago. I mean as recently as he wrote on his financial disclosure form to become attorney general that he has earned over $1.2 million from the firm since March 2017.

As with every investigation Bill Barr has no business overseeing, he has received a waiver that allows him to not recuse himself from the ongoing DOJ and FBI investigations into the entire 1MDB matter, despite the fact that he has this obvious conflict.

 

Who Gave Him The Waiver

White House lawyer Emmet Flood. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

 

Here’s How Politicians Are Reacting To The Mueller Report

Not to be too crude, but the Mueller investigation has ended and it feels like letting out a big sh*t you’ve kept in for 22 months. But the terrible part is it doesn’t even feel like a relief. Usually, I wouldn’t make a poop joke in the first sentence of an article, but Mueller concluded no collusion and now the world feels extra lawless and I’ll do as I please.

Obviously we’ve been preparing our reaction gifs to this moment for months and politicians are no different. Here’s what’s being said across the aisle, not that our government matters at all any more or whatever.

The Dems

In the Dems’ dream scenario, Mueller would usher in Tyra Banks who would not pull out Trump’s photo and he’d be sent back to pack his bags and leave immediately. Since this did not happen, and there’s no collusion, Dems are really pushing to see the whole report and get to the bottom of why Mueller felt he could not say one way or another if the president committed obstruction of justice. (His inability to smize?)

AG Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers. The fact that Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report & documentation be made public without any further delay.

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) March 24, 2019

The American public deserves the full report and findings from the Mueller investigation immediately—not just the in-house summary from a Trump Administration official. https://t.co/8Lj0O881Cw

— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) March 24, 2019

 

He can stay, he can go. He can be impeached, or voted out in 2020.

But removing Trump will not remove the infrastructure of an entire party that embraced him; the dark money that funded him; the online radicalization that drummed his army; nor the racism he amplified+reanimated.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 24, 2019

The Mueller report needs to be made public, the underlying investigative materials should be handed over to Congress, and Barr must testify. That is what transparency looks like. A short letter from Trump's hand-picked Attorney General is not sufficient.

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) March 24, 2019

Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to establish conspiracy, notwithstanding Russian offers to help Trump’s campaign, their acceptance, and a litany of concealed interactions with Russia.

I trust Mueller’s prosecutorial judgement, but the country must see the evidence.

— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 24, 2019

 

The GOP

Unfortunately, the GOP is gloating and celebrating by probably ordering an extra round of White Russians at their country clubs or whatever. The general gist is that they think Dems have wasted all of our time by pushing for this and it’s also somehow the media’s fault.

Time to investigate the Obama officials who concocted and spread the Russian conspiracy hoax!

— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 25, 2019

That it was so easy to unleash frenzy & hysteria over outlandish claim President was a double agent should terrify every American. #Russia very good at misinformation & manipulation.

They have learned from this ordeal.

Who knows what false narrative they have planned next.

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 25, 2019

The Russia investigation was based on false pretenses, false intel, and false media reports. House Intel found a yr ago there was no evidence of collusion, and Democrats who falsely claim to have such evidence have needlessly provoked a terrible, more than two-year-long crisis.

— Devin Nunes (@DevinNunes) March 24, 2019

The President’s (Least Favorite) Son

While this was a great vindication for @realDonaldTrump & our family, it was an equally amazing day for all of his incredible supporters who stood by him faithfully despite a #fakenews media & Democrat onslaught the likes of which has never happened in our history. Thank you all!

— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 25, 2019

The President

Good Morning, Have A Great Day!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019

and finally, for the best take of all:

Billy Eichner

 

Did not imagine a world where they were able to indict Aunt Becky before Donald Trump.

— billy eichner (@billyeichner) March 24, 2019

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend the rest of the day contemplating this exact question.

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