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“I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is” — What We Can Learn From Mueller’s House Testimonies

Former special counsel Robert Mueller testified on July 24 before the House Judiciary Committee (HJC) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) regarding his April 18 report.

Mueller explicitly stated prior to the testimony that he couldn’t reveal any investigative material that wasn’t already made public in the redacted version of the report. In a letter to him from the Department of Justice, the DOJ agreed, “[We] generally [do] not permit prosecutors such as [Mueller] to appear and testify before Congress regarding their investigative and prosecutorial activity.” At the beginning of the HJC hearing, Mueller added, “The report is my testimony.” In response to the many questions regarding investigative material outside of the report, Mueller refused to answer. 

Did President Trump collude with the Russians or commit obstruction of justice?

The former prosecutor stood by the language of his report, saying that while there was insufficient evidence to prove that the President committed a crime, he is not exonerated. Mueller did agree that knowingly accepting aid from a foreign power (as the Trump Campaign has showed interest in doing) was “unethical”, “unpatriotic”, “wrong”, and “a crime.” 

With regard to obstruction of justice, Mueller explained that there are three elements to such a crime: (1) an “obstructive act”, (2) a nexus with “official proceedings” and (3) “corruptive intent”. He stated that there was not enough evidence to establish that Trump met all three of these criteria. However, he also stated that Trump viewed his investigation as “adverse” and that multiple witnesses lied to Mueller and his team, which hindered the investigation. 

How serious are Russian “active measures”?

The HPSCI focused mainly on the “active measures” undertaken by Russia—that is, their efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. This has also been referred to as the Russian “hacking”. They “hacked” voters through social media campaigns and targeted polling apparatuses in all fifty states

Mueller stressed that Russian active measures are a problem that needs to be swifty addressed. He stated that Russian hacking was not a “hoax” and that it was not a single attempt. “They’re doing it as we sit here.” Asked if he thought a “new normal” was being ushered in by Russia, Mueller replied, “I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is.” He added that he expected other countries to begin to replicate the Russians’ techniques, especially during the 2020 presidential election. 

 

According to Mueller, Trump viewed his investigation as “adverse.” Tweet from Russiatweets.com

What should be done?

Mueller carefully avoided mentioning impeachment. When the subject was brought up to him, he said that it wasn’t his place to decide whether or not President Trump had committed impeachable offences. 

With regards to Russian active measures, Mueller stressed that they must be addressed early and aggressively, and advised federal intelligence agencies to work together to better secure the United States. 

When asked if his full report could be released to Congress or the public, Mueller replied, “Not my purview.”

Did anyone “win” in Mueller’s testimony?

Though Mueller mostly refused to take sides, it could be said that House Democrats gained a slight edge over the Republicans. Many of the Republicans attempted to deny both the possibility of collusion (and/or obstruction of justice) and Russian active measures. Mueller disagreed, stating plainly that Trump is not exonerated and that Russian interference was not a hoax but rather a series of operations purposefully designed to benefit Trump. These admissions made it much harder for the GOP to dismiss Mueller’s investigations as false or a witch hunt. 

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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Hi! I'm Kat, a sixteen-year-old from Colorado. I know how to write like mad and balance chemical equations. I do not know how to drive or what college I'm going to.

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