Former special counsel Robert Mueller is testifying before Congress today. Yesterday, Congressman Ted Lieu had said “minds may be blown” by the proceedings—so far, that hasn’t necessarily been the case. In discussing the findings of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mueller has refused to address questions regarding the conduct of Attorney General William Barr and CNN described Mueller as being “shaky” so far.
A highlight has been Congressman Adam Schiff’s opening statement at chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff argues, as he has in the past, that although Trump’s conduct may not have been criminal, his apparent amenability to receiving outside information about a fellow candidate and continued propensity to misrepresent the truth about the election and the results of the Mueller investigation are both un-presidential and un-American.
Schiff said, “…your team was not able to establish each of the elements of the crime of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt, so not a provable crime, in any event. But, I think, maybe, something worse. A crime is the violation of a law written by Congress. But disloyalty to country violates the very obligation of citizenship, our devotion to a core principle on which our nation was founded….”
Read his entire opening statement below.
At the outset and on behalf of my colleagues, I want to thank you, Special Counsel Mueller, for a lifetime of service to the country.
Your report, for those who have taken the time to study it, is methodical and it is devastating, for it tells the story of a foreign adversary’s sweeping and systematic intervention in a close U.S. presidential election.
That should be enough to deserve the attention of every American, as you well point out. But your report tells another story as well. For the story of the 2016 presidential election is also a story about disloyalty to country, about greed, and about lies.
Your investigation determined that the Trump campaign—including Trump himself—knew that a foreign power was intervening in our election and welcomed it, built Russian meddling into their strategy, and used it.
Disloyalty to country. Those are strong words, but how else are we to describe a presidential campaign which did not inform the authorities of a foreign offer of dirt on their opponent, which did not publicly shun it, or turn it away, but which instead invited it, encouraged it, and made full use of it?
That disloyalty may not have been criminal. Constrained by uncooperative witnesses, the destruction of documents and the use of encrypted communications, your team was not able to establish each of the elements of the crime of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt, so not a provable crime, in any event. But, I think, maybe, something worse. A crime is the violation of a law written by Congress. But disloyalty to country violates the very obligation of citizenship, our devotion to a core principle on which our nation was founded, that we, the people, not some foreign power that wishes us ill, we decide, who shall govern, us.
This also a story about money, about greed and corruption, about the leadership of a campaign willing to compromise the nation’s interest not only to win, but to make money at the same time.
About a campaign chairman indebted to pro-Russian interests who tried to use his position to clear his debts and make millions. About a national security advisor using his position to make money from still other foreign interests. And about a candidate trying to make more money than all of them, through a real estate project that to him, was worth a fortune, hundreds of millions of dollars, and the realization of a lifelong ambition — a Trump Tower in the heart of Moscow. A candidate who, in fact, viewed his whole campaign as the greatest infomercial in history.
Donald Trump and his senior staff were not alone in their desire to use the election to make money. For Russia, too, there was a powerful financial motive. Putin wanted relief from U.S. economic sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and over human rights violations. The secret Trump Tower meeting between the Russians and senior campaign officials was about sanctions. The secret conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador were about sanctions. Trump and his team wanted more money for themselves, and the Russians wanted more money for themselves, and for their oligarchs.
But the story doesn’t end here either. For your report also tells a story about lies. Lots of lies.
Lies about a gleaming tower in Moscow and lies about talks with the Kremlin. Lies about the firing of FBI Director James Comey, and lies about efforts to fire you, Mr. Mueller, and lies to cover it up. Lies about secret negotiations with the Russians over sanctions and lies about Wikileaks. Lies about polling data and lies about hush money payments. Lies about meetings in the Seychelles to set up secret back channels, and lies about a secret meeting in New York Trump Tower. Lies to the FBI, lies to your staff, and lies to our Committee.
And lies to obstruct an investigation into the most serious attack on our democracy by a foreign power in our history.
That is where your report ends, Mr. Mueller, with a scheme to cover up, obstruct and deceive every bit as systematic and pervasive as the Russian disinformation campaign itself, but far more pernicious since this rot came from within.
Even now, after 448 pages in two volumes, the deception continues. The President and his acolytes say your report found no collusion, though your report explicitly declined to address that question, since collusion can involve both criminal and non-criminal conduct.
Your report laid out multiple offers of Russian help to the Trump campaign, the campaign’s acceptance of that help, and overt acts in furtherance of Russian help. To most Americans, that is the very definition of collusion, whether it is a crime or not.
They say your report found no evidence of obstruction, though you outline numerous actions by the President intended to obstruct the investigation.
They say the President has been fully exonerated, though you specifically declare you could not exonerate him.
In fact, they say your whole investigation was nothing more than a witch hunt, that the Russians didn’t interfere in our election, that it’s all a terrible hoax. The real crime, they say, is not that the Russians intervened to help Donald Trump, but that the FBI had the temerity to investigate it when they did.
But worst of all, worse than all the lies and the greed, is the disloyalty to country, for that too, continues. When asked, if the Russians intervene again, will you take their help, Mr. President? Why not, was the essence of his answer. Everyone does it.
No, Mr. President, they don’t. Not in the America envisioned by Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Not for those who believe in the idea that Lincoln labored until his dying day to preserve, the idea animating our great national experiment, so unique then, so precious still — that our government is chosen by our people, through our franchise, and not by some hostile foreign power.
This is what is at stake. Our next election, and the one after that, for generations to come. Our democracy.
This is why your work matters, Mr. Mueller. This is why our investigation matters. To bring these dangers to light.