Back in March, when a summary of then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings was first released to the public, President Donald Trump triumphantly tweeted that he’d received a “Complete and Total EXONERATION.” But on Wednesday, Mueller said that simply wasn’t true.
“The president has repeatedly claimed that your report found that there was no obstruction and that it completely and totally exonerated him,” noted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) at the start of a highly anticipated series of congressional hearings about Mueller’s Russia investigation. “But that is not what your report said, is it?”
“Correct, that is not what the report said,” Mueller said.
“So, the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice? Is that correct?” Nadler continued.
“That is correct,” Mueller responded.
“And what about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the president?” Nadler asked.
“No,” Mueller responded.
“In fact, your report expressly states that it does not exonerate the president,” Nadler went on.
“It does,” Mueller said.
No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019
Mueller has said this before, both in his report and in a brief public statement in May. But his clear and succinct responses Wednesday represented another blow to the president’s chief talking point when it comes to the scandal—that the absence of criminal charges in the Mueller report amounted to total exoneration. As Mueller has noted, longstanding Justice Department guidelines protect the president from being indicted on federal charges.
Later in his testimony, the former special counsel also noted that Trump refused to sit down for an interview with investigators, despite multiple attempts by Mueller’s team to convince Trump to do so.
Rep. Jerry Nadler: "The president has repeatedly claimed that your report found there was no obstruction, and that it completely and totally exonerated him. But that is not what your report said, it is?"
— ABC News (@ABC) July 24, 2019