President Trump has spent the last week questioning the patriotism of four congresswomen of colour. Today, his lack of patriotism was put under a spotlight on Capitol Hill.
After over two years of disinformation being disseminated from Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, and lies subsequently perpetuated by Attorney General William Barr and conservative media, we have finally heard from the man himself. In his 89th appearance before Congress, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees and showcased to the American people the extent of Donald Trump‘s deceptive corruption.
While Republicans sought to disparage Robert Mueller personally, push conspiracy theories, and protect President Trump’s image, Democrats highlighted the facts. In other words, Democrats pursued justice while Republicans sought to further obstruct it. If Republicans really feel President Trump has been exonerated by the Mueller report, why would they seek to undermine the integrity of Mueller himself? In spite of the Republican hackery, House Democrats offered solid questions that garnered testimony from Mueller that definitively debunked the Trump Administration’s false narratives.
President Trump was not “exonerated” and Mueller’s report did not say there was “no collusion, no obstruction.” The hearings highlighted the fact the Office of Legal Counsel’s (OLC) memos are the reason Mueller did not consider charging Trump and Mueller stated on live TV that Trump could be charged with obstruction after leaving office. When it comes to Russia’s interference, Mueller testified that Russia’s interference was not a “hoax,” his investigation was not a “witch hunt,” and that the Trump Campaign was receptive to Russia’s help.
Mueller’s opening statement outlined the Russian government’s sweeping and systematic attack on US democracy, and undermined one of President Trump’s most parroted lies. Mueller stated: “We did not address collusion, which is not a legal term...”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler began the hearing with an incredibly effective line of questioning. In five minutes, Nadler got Mueller to say his report did not exonerate Trump, that his report didn’t find “no obstruction,” that the OLC memos prevented him from considering indicting President Trump, and that Trump could be indicted after leaving office.
After Nadler’s opening line of questioning, House Democrats proceeded to break down the 11 obstructive acts outlined in the Mueller report. They methodically outlined Trump’s efforts to get former White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, efforts to get McGahn to falsify records, efforts to force former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself from the Russia investigation, and various instances of witness tampering. Democrats clearly showcased how some of the acts met the three elements of obstruction of justice: obstructive act, nexus to proceeding, and corrupt intent. Democrats appeared to lay out the foundation for the basis of an impeachment inquiry.
Throughout the hearing, Mueller repeatedly referred to the OLC memos as the reason he did not consider pursuing charges against President Trump. After Republicans launched a series of questions that backfired and highlighted Trump’s improper contacts with Russia, Representative Ken Buck accidentally asked one of the most damning questions of the hearing.
Rep. Buck: “Could you charge the president with a crime after he left office?”
Buck: “You believe that you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?”
After three hours before the House Judiciary, Mueller testified before the House Intelligence Committee. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff used his opening statement to detail the fact that although Donald Trump’s collusion with Russia may not have been criminal, it was a betrayal of America.
“That disloyalty may not have been criminal ... But disloyalty to country violates the very obligation of citizenship, our devotion to a core principle on which our nation was founded.”
Schiff asked Mueller if his investigation was a witch hunt, to which Mueller said it was not. Drawing from the over 100 pages of contacts between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government in the Mueller report, Schiff asked: “In fact, the campaign welcomed the Russian help, did they not?”
Mueller responded: “I think we have...in the report indications that occurred, yes.”
Mueller also stated, as his report outlines, that the Russian government’s election interference sought to help elect Trump and when asked about Trump’s praise of Wikileaks, Mueller said of the praise: “Problematic is an understatement in terms of what it displays in terms of giving some hope, or, I don’t know, some boost, to what is, and should be, illegal activity.” Mueller also stated that Russia’s interference is ongoing and the FBI is still running their counterintelligence probe.
In his closing statement, Schiff’s oratory rose to the weight of the moment:
“Protecting the sanctity of our elections begins, however, with the recognition that accepting foreign hep is disloyal to our country, unethical, and wrong. We cannot control what the Russians do, not completely, but we can decide what we do. And that this centuries-old experiment we call American democracy is worth cherishing.”
As his report did, Mueller’s testimony proved that Russia interfered in US democracy, the Trump Campaign was receptive to their election help, and President Trump tried to obstruct the investigation probing that activity. It debunked Trump’s lies about the report, and showcased to the extent Barr has misrepresented Mueller’s findings. The hearings highlighted the fact Republicans have greater loyalty to Trump than they do to their country.
The importance of Mueller’s testimony cannot be overstated. Mueller’s responses highlighted Trump’s dishonesty, corruption, and potential criminal liability. It is now up to House Democrats to decide if they will move forward with an impeachment inquiry and hold this lawless President accountable.
After the hearings, President Trump sent a tweet that read “TRUTH IS A FORCE OF NATURE!” That tweet is accurate, but unfortunately for him, the truth won’t set him free.
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