Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller told members of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday his report did not exonerate President Trump, despite the fact there is no evidence the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government.
Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) focused on the “obstruction” claims, which Democrats have been eagerly pursuing, and asked Mueller if his report exonerated the president.
“You wrote, ‘If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment,'” Nadler said.
“So the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice. Is that correct?” Nadler asked.
“And that is correct,” Mueller stated.
“What about total exoneration. Did you actually totally exonerate the president?” Nadler continued.
“No,” Mueller said.
“Your report states that it does not exonerate the president,” Nadler added.
“It does,” Mueller replied.
Nadler: Did you actually totally exonerate the president?
Nadler: In fact, your report expressly states that it does not exonerate the president.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 24, 2019
Despite Mueller’s pledge to stick to his report, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) caught him in a contradiction following Nadler’s line of questioning. During his opening statement, Mueller stated: “We did not address collusion, which is not a legal term. Rather, we focused on whether the evidence was sufficient to charge any member of the campaign with taking part in a criminal conspiracy, and it was not.”
Collins asked Mueller if collusion and conspiracy were “essentially synonymous terms, ” and Mueller said no. However, as Collins pointed out, the report states: “As defined in legal dictionaries, collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy as that crime is set forth in a general federal conspiracy statute 18 U.S. Code § 371.”
After a brief back and forth, Collins asked if Mueller would change his answer to a yes.
“No, no. If you look at the language–” Mueller began before Collins cut him off.
“I’m reading your report sir,” Collins said. “It’s a yes or no answer.”
“I leave it with the report,” Mueller stated.
“The report says yes. They are synonymous. Hopefully – finally – out of your own report we can put to bed the collusion and conspiracy,” Collins said.