Mueller testifies before the House Select Committee on Intelligence on July 24, 2019. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
In his testimony Wednesday, former special counsel Robert Mueller disputed 5 of President Trump's frequent claims about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the president's potential efforts to obstruct justice.
The big picture: Many of the claims Mueller knocked down were already refuted in his 450-page report, but Democrats were seeking to animate the special counsel's findings through Wednesday's high-stakes testimony. That was clear from the moment that Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) opened the hearing with his line of questioning.
Mueller said in his opening statement that the counsel's investigation did not address "collusion," since it is not a legal concept.
Mueller denied that the report concluded that Trump did not commit obstruction of justice. Mueller reiterated that he did not reach a "traditional prosecutorial judgment" as to whether Trump obstructed justice because the Justice Department's Office of Legal Opinion bars him from indicting a sitting president.
In the first question of the hearing, Nadler asked Mueller whether his investigation "totally exonerated" Trump, as the president has so often claimed. Mueller responded, "No."
"The 3 year Witch Hunt" and the "Russia Collusion Hoax"
Mueller told the House Intelligence Committee that his investigation was "absolutely" not a "witch hunt," and that Russian interference in the 2016 election is not a "hoax." Trump tweeted both phrases in the hours leading up to Mueller's appearance.
Mueller's FBI job interview
Mueller said that DOJ ethics officials concluded that he had no conflicts of interest that prevented him from serving as special counsel. He also denied Trump's claim that his application for FBI director was rejected and said he discussed the FBI job with Trump, but "not as a candidate."