The man behind the report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election – and allegations of obstruction of justice by the White House – will testify for the first time Wednesday.
Robert Mueller, former special counsel, will appear before two U.S. Congressional committees to give his interpretation of his report released earlier this year.
CGTN’s White House Correspondent Nathan King reports.
His investigation led to more than 30 indictments. Several close associates of U.S. President Trump pled guilty to making false statements to the FBI and Congress.
The report stopped short of saying the president committed a crime, but Mueller did not rule it out. His testimony could potentially lead to impeachment hearings against the president.
Released to the public in April, the Mueller report is a detailed and meticulous investigation into essentially two things:
- Russian attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible conspiracy with the Trump campaign.
- An investigation into whether the Trump administration tried to interfere with the investigation and obstruct justice.
Despite the 450-page report and dozens of indictments, the U.S. president dismissed the findings back in March in a single tweet.
“No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”
And essentially that is what Wednesday’s hearing is all about.
Trump said the report exonerated him. Mueller disagreed in his only public remarks since his report’s publication.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime,” Mueller said.
Part of the reason for that is a long-held U.S. Justice Department view that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, but there is a political option.
He can be impeached. That means the U.S. House of Representatives can draft articles of impeachment against the president. If approved, the case moves to the U.S. Senate for a trial.
No president has been removed from office this way in the history of the U.S., although in modern times Bill Clinton was impeached by the House and Richard Nixon resigned before that process got started.
So far, many leading Democrats have expressed reluctance over impeaching the president. Mueller’s public testimony in front of the cameras could change that.
“I think just the fact – just if he says what was in the report and says it to the American people so they can hear it – that will be very, very important because they’ve been subjected to months of… of deception as to what was in the report by the Attorney General and by the President. And, that will be important in itself. Whether he goes further than that, we’ll see,” Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler said.
The White House is playing down Mueller’s testimony. From the President on down the message is the report found nothing that implicates the president – and the country should move on. We shall see, as the President likes to say, whether that is still the case after the hearings.