WASHINGTON -- Robert Mueller, who led the U.S. investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, reiterated to Congress that his findings did not exonerate President Donald Trump of crimes.
During the much-anticipated testimony on July 24, which comes as Trump campaigns for reelection in 2020, the former special prosecutor said the president could be indicted for obstruction once he leaves office.
"No. The president was not exculpated," Mueller said before the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee when asked by Democratic lawmakers if he had "totally" exonerated Trump, a claim the president has repeatedly made on Twitter following the conclusion of the investigation in March.
When asked by the Democratic lawmakers if it was correct that Trump could be charged for hindering the investigation when he leaves office, Mueller responded that it was "true."
Speaking separately to the House Intelligence Committee in the afternoon, Mueller told lawmakers that Russian interference in the U.S. political system was not a onetime event.
“It wasn’t a single attempt,” he told lawmakers. “They’re doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”
Mueller's testimony comes three months after he released the results of his nearly two-year-long probe that corroborated U.S. intelligence conclusions of Russian interference in the election that brought Donald Trump to the presidency.
Mueller appeared under subpoena first before the House Judiciary Committee in the morning and was scheduled to appear before the Intelligence Committee later in the day.
His testimony and questioning by Democratic and Republican lawmakers will likely be heated and is sure to spark strong public reactions from both Trump and his supporters and from critics.
Democrat Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, opened the hearing by saying Mueller’s testimony was necessary to determine if the sitting president tried to put himself above the law by seeking to stop the investigation.
Republican representative John Ratcliffe ripped into Mueller, saying there has never been a case where the Justice Department did not exonerate a person whose innocence could not be conclusively determined. Mueller, he said, put Trump "below the law" by doing otherwise.
Trump and many of his Republican supporters have called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and an attempt by Democrats to undermine his presidency.
Trump himself told reporters at the White House on July 23 that "I'm not going to be watching -- probably -- maybe I'll see a little bit of it. I'm not going to be watching Mueller because you can't take all those bites out of the apple."
Overall, Mueller’s report was met with satisfaction by Trump, who said it vindicated his statements that he and his associates neither colluded with Russian officials nor sought to obstruct Mueller’s investigation.
However, Mueller’s findings -- detailed in a partially redacted, 448-page report released on April 18 -- also documented Trump’s efforts to undermine his inquiry. But Mueller concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove Trump and his team committed a crime, although he did not exonerate him.
Before the release of the report, Attorney General William Barr issued a four-page summary that Democratic lawmakers said misconstrued Mueller’s report.
A letter that Mueller wrote to Barr was released publicly. In it, Mueller complained that Barr’s summary "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of his team’s conclusions, leading Democratic lawmakers to issue the subpoena for Mueller to appear before the House panels.