LATEST: Play-by-Play on Mueller Testimony

Rebekah Sager
July 24, 2019 - 9:29 am

Getty/Alex Wong

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Former special counsel Robert Mueller appeared before Congress to testify before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning.

He not only dismissed President Donald Trump's claim of "total exoneration," saying that Trump alleged was not in the Russia report, but he additionally told lawmakers that the Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. elections were "among the most serious challenges to American democracy." 

There was something of a bombshell in this morning's hearings when Mueller told lawmakers, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, and others, that the investigators did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice.

Mueller's opening comments to the House Judiciary Committee began with the statement that, "The president was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed." 

As the hearing continued, Mueller added that a president can be charged with crimes after leaving office, saying the Justice Department guidelines prevented him from considering charges against Trump while he remains in office. 

As Trump tweeted responses during the hearing, Mueller told the lawmakers that he spoke with Trump about the FBI Director job but "not as a candidate."

Not only did Trump get in on the action Wednesday morning but so did his son, with Donald Trump Jr. calling the hearing a "disaster" for the Democrats. 

Meanwhile, as the hearings continued, to deride Mueller's testimony, the Democrats and Hillary Clinton.

Later on Wednesday afternoon, Mueller will appear before the intelligence committee.

Brett Tolman, former U.S. Attorney for Utah during the George W. Bush administration; and a long-time associate and colleague of Mueller told KNX Tuesday he didn't expect Mueller to reveal any new news. 

Of the substantial allegations in the report, getting him to talk about any of them, is unlikely. He will stick to the report as instructed by the Department of Justice, Tolman told In-Depth podcast hosts Charles Feldman and Mike Simpson. 

Mueller testified from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. to Judiciary, and then go before a second committee, House Intelligence, at noon for approximately two hours.

He will make his opening statements to both committees before giving his statement. 

LISTEN LIVE TO KNX COVERAGE STARTING AT 5:30 AM PST

The GOP will go after Mueller on his political allegiances or as President Trump calls them, the "angry Democrats." The Dems will attempt to point out the five instances of obstruction of justice from the report. 

"What's important is there is truly shocking evidence of criminal misconduct by the president — not once but again and again and again — that would result in any other American being criminally charged in a multiple count indictment," one Democrat staffer told NBC News last week

The Judiciary Committee has 41 members and the Intelligence Committee has 22. While all of the Intelligence Committee members are expected to get five minutes to ask questions, it is likely that some members of the larger Judiciary panel will get less time for questioning.

Mueller's longtime associate, Aaron Zebley, will appear alongside him and serve as his lawyer as Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

Zebley, Mueller's former chief of staff and his top aide on the Russia investigation, was an unexpected addition to the witness table less than 24 hours before the hearing. The person who provided the information, granted anonymity to freely discuss the talks, said that Mueller requested Zebley be sworn in and take questions, but the committee decided instead that he could appear alongside as a counsel.

Republicans were livid about the last-minute change. Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the Judiciary panel's top Republican, called the move an "apparent stunt" by Democrats. He said it "shows the lengths Democrats will go to protect a one-sided narrative from a thorough examination by committee Republicans."

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, another member of the committee, tweeted: "You don't get to change the rules right before kickoff."

House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Tuesday that Mueller had made a similar request of his committee, which will ask questions of him in a second hearing on Wednesday.

"I would expect that he will have someone with him, and we are in discussions about precisely in what capacity that person will appear with him," Schiff said.

Schiff appeared to have some concerns about the request, saying he didn't want to see "a hearing with Bob Mueller converted to a hearing with someone else."

The sessions will review Mueller's 448-page report released in April.

Republicans sitting on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees are likely prepared to address various anti-Trump texts sent between his team members, as well as anything that diminishes the damaging information about the President found in Mueller’s report, according to CNN.

President Trump said he doesn't plan to watch former special counsel Robert Mueller testify before Congress on Wednesday, but he might watch some of it. 

Associated Press contributed to this story.