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Is Trump 'Below the Law'? Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller Tells Congress Trump Not Exonerated


Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress today, answering questions from two House committees in much-anticipated televised hearings.

Democrats did their best to dismantle President Trump's repeated claims that the Mueller report cleared him while also painting a picture of the chief executive determined to impede an investigation. 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) began by asking Mueller if his report cleared the president of wrongdoing, and Mueller replied that it did not.

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.

In one poignant moment, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) pointed out that federal standards make it clear that Americans are innocent until proven guilty, and since Mueller did not find evidence of a crime, then there's no legal authority for him to claim that Trump was not exonerated. 

Ratcliffe argued that prosecutors should not offer extra-prosecutorial allegations about possible crimes that weren't charged, saying Trump should not be above the law but he also shouldn't be treated as if he were "below the law", saying that's what Mueller's accusations have done.

Throughout the day, Democrats focused mainly on obstruction of justice and Republicans highlighted a variety of issues on Mueller's investigation, including how it got started and if there was bias against Trump in the early days of the investigation.
Ranking Republican Rep. Doug Collins (GA) pinpointed claims about obstruction of justice, asking Mueller if his investigation was curtailed. Mueller replied, "No."  

Collins then used Mueller's own words against him to make the point that "no conspiracy" means "no collusion". 

"In page 180 of your report, it says collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy. You said you choose your words carefully. Are you contradicting your report right now? It is a yes or no answer," Collins said. "So the report says yes, they are synonymous so we can put to bed the collusion and conspiracy."

And Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert defended the president, saying he was acting as any innocent person would.

"If somebody knows they did not conspire with anybody from Russia to affect the election, and they see the big Justice Department with people that hate that person coming after them, and then a special counsel appointed who hires a dozen or more people that hate that person, and he knows he's innocent..." Gohmert said. "What he's doing is not obstructing justice. He's pursuing justice and the fact that you ran it out two years means perpetuated injustice."

Both sides are claiming victory while many analysts and observers have focused more on the director's performance. He often asked "can you repeat the question?" and seemed confused and unfamiliar with the contents of his own report. 

President Trump's legal counsel Jay Sekulow said, "This morning’s testimony exposed the troubling deficiencies of the Special Counsel’s investigation. The testimony revealed that this probe was conducted by a small group of politically-biased prosecutors who, as hard as they tried, were unable to establish either obstruction, conspiracy, or collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It is also clear that the Special Counsel conducted his two-year investigation unimpeded. The American people understand that this issue is over.  They also understand that the case is closed.”

Still, Democrats hope the hearings will weaken President Trump's re-election prospects, which is something that Mueller's book-length report did not seem to do.

The president blasted away at the hearing throughout the day with numerous tweets:

Trump insists his team cooperated fully with the investigation which found no evidence of collusion between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. 


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