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By: Margot Cleveland of the Federalist

When Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees last week, the biggest take-away was that the former special counsel did not know the name Fusion GPS—the firm the Clinton campaign hired to produce the Steele dossier. The breadth of Mueller’s ignorance, hedging, and silence in response to questions posed to him, however, was truly expansive.

While much of the criticism leveled at Mueller following his testimony focused on his ignorance of key facts and his confusion over the details contained in the special counsel’s report, the following seven lines of inquiry show Mueller knew exactly what he was doing.

1. I Don’t Know What the Regulations Say, Except When I Do

With Democrats hammering on Part 2 of the special counsel report, which addressed obstruction of justice, Republicans attempted to show that Mueller violated governing regulations by failing make a “charging or declination decision,” as required by the special counsel regulations.

“Let me begin by reading the special counsel regulations by which you were appointed,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. started: “It reads, quote, ‘At the conclusion of the special counsel’s work he or she shall provide the attorney general with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the special counsel.’ Is that correct?”

Mueller replied, “Yes,” allowing Sensenbrenner to hammer the point: “When a regulation uses the word ‘shall provide’ does it mean that the individual is, in fact, obligated to provide what’s being demanded by the regulation or statute, meaning you don’t have any wiggle room, right?”

But Mueller, knowing full well that he had slimed President Trump in violation of the special counsel regulations, feigned ignorance, claiming he “would have to look more closely at the statute.” “I just read it to you,” an exasperated Sensenbrenner countered, before noting that special counsel report did not render a prosecutorial decision.

However, later Mueller had no problems answering a question about the special counsel regulations when they weren’t even quoted to him. “And pursuant to the special counsel regulations,” Rep. Martha Roby began, “who is the only party that must receive the charging decision resulting from the special counsel’s investigation?” The “attorney general,” Mueller easily and correctly replied, showing that on the terms of the special counsel regulations, he was no fool.

2. I’m Not Getting Into Any Details That Make Me Look Bad

Roby also questioned Mueller about Attorney General William Barr’s request that, when turning in the final special counsel report, Mueller highlight any grand jury materials included. Barr had explained in his earlier congressional testimony that he had requested Mueller submit the final report with the grand jury materials identified to allow for a quick redaction and release.

But, as Barr testified earlier this year, “Unfortunately it did not come in that form…so there was necessarily going to be a gap between the receipt of the report and getting the full report out publicly.” Barr explained that delay prompted him to release the report’s bottom-line findings, which in turn triggered Mueller’s “snitty letter” to the attorney general. More on that later.

Roby wanted to know why Mueller had ignored his boss’ directive. “On March 24, Attorney General Barr informed the committee that he had received the special counsel’s report and it was not until April 18 that the attorney general released the report to Congress and the public,” Roby started. “When you submitted your report to the attorney general, did you deliver a redacted version of the report so that he would be able to release it to Congress and the public without delay?” Roby asked.

“I’m not going to engage in discussion about what happened after the production of our report,” Mueller replied. Roby persisted: “Had the attorney general asked you to provide a redacted version of the report?” Now Mueller answered, but with a dodge: “We worked on redacted versions together.”

So apparently Mueller was willing to discuss what happened after he produced the report. Well, only if the answer wouldn’t subject him to criticism, that is, since when Roby asked whether Barr requested “a version where the grand jury material was separated,” Mueller said, “I’m not going to get into details.”

There was no legitimate basis for Mueller to refuse to answer that question. Barr had already testified before Congress that he had asked the special counsel to identify the grand jury materials in the report and that Mueller had failed to do so.

3. Lawyer-Like Answers When He Wanted

Mueller also displayed his legal agility when asked, “Did you personally review all of the underlying evidence gathered in your investigation?” “To the extent that it came through the special counsel’s office, yes,” Mueller told the committee.

Why that qualification? Because Mueller knew the special counsel’s office had not received all of the underlying evidence related to the investigation. So much for a thorough investigation!

Other times, Mueller displayed his dexterity by allowing Democrats to characterize the special counsel report and then agree that their portrayal was “generally correct.” For instance, when asked whether “the president is asking his White House counsel, Don McGahn, to create a record that McGahn believed to be untrue while you were in the midst of investigating the president for obstruction of justice,” the special counsel did the lawyerly squish of “generally correct.”

4. Who Was the Puppeteer?

Mueller also refused to answer any factual questions that made his team look bad. When quizzed on who wrote the “snitty letter” to the attorney general “essentially complaining about the media coverage of your report,” Mueller replied, “I can’t get into who wrote it.” Mueller also refused to explain why he wrote a formal letter to Barr instead of calling the attorney general to express the same concerns, as Barr wondered in a CBS News interview.

But his congressional inquisitor knew the answer—it was to change the narrative about the special counsel report, because that March 27 letter was soon leaked to the press. We at least know that Mueller didn’t authorize the letter’s release, because when asked if he had, he said, “I have no knowledge” of that. When pushed, though, Mueller quickly reverted to non-answer answers, and when asked why, after nearly two years without a leak, “this letter leaked,” the special counsel countered, “I can’t get into it.”

While we don’t know the author of the “snitty” letter or the individual responsible for leaking it, we do know that Mueller wasn’t about to let his top “pit bull” Andrew Weissmann be dissed. Rather, when quizzed on Weissmann’s questionable history, Mueller defended his top prosecutor. Weissmann is “one of the most talented attorneys we’ve had over a period of time,” Mueller responded, when the committee pointed out that Weissmann led the prosecution of Arthur Anderson in a criminal case so bogus the Supreme Court reversed it 9-0.

5. Sergeant Schultz Goes to Washington

While Mueller hedged or sat in silence to avoid giving damaging testimony, when confronted with the mistakes or omissions contained in the special counsel report—or misconduct by team members—Mueller heard nothing, saw nothing, and knew nothing. As just noted, he had no knowledge of the leak of “his” March 27 letter to Barr. Mueller also knew nothing about the special counsel report’s misrepresentations concerning conversations between Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen and Giorgi Rtskhiladze.

The Mueller report had branded Rtskhiladze “a Russian businessman,” but the letter Rtskhiladze’s lawyer sent to Barr to complain about the special counsel’s misrepresentations of his client explained that Rtskhiladze was born in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and has been a permanent U.S. resident for 23 years and a citizen since 2017.

Rtskhiladze’s attorney also complained about the special counsel’s selective editing of text messages sent to Cohen. Mueller was “not familiar with that particular episode you’re talking about,” though.

6. It’s My Testimony and I’ll Talk If I Want To

For all his show about sticking within the four corners of the report, Mueller had no problem pontificating when he wanted to. For instance, when asked whether the lesson from the 2016 election would be that in future campaigns, presidential candidates would see no duty to report to authorities that a hostile foreign power is trying to influence the election, Mueller replied, “I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is.” That testimony served no basis but to smear Trump.

Another time, when asked what Jeff Sessions could have done to restrict Mueller’s investigation had the former attorney general “unrecused” himself from the probe, Mueller said he “wasn’t going to speculate,” but then added that “obviously, if he took over as attorney general he would have greater latitude in his actions that would enable him to do things that otherwise he could not.”

Then there was Mueller’s testimony-non-testimony related to the Carter Page Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders. Mueller was fine telling the committee that he was not in the approval chain, but didn’t want to discuss anything else.

Mueller was also completely okay with telling the committee that he only participated in a few of the approximately 500 interviews his team conducted. Similarly, Mueller wouldn’t say how many members of the special counsel team he had fired, but when asked whether he terminated Peter Strzok over an appearance of a major conflict of interest, Mueller answered: “No, he was transferred as a result of instances involving texts.”

Conversely, when asked whether special counsel lawyer Weissmann disclosed the email he had sent to former deputy attorney general Sally Yates expressing his pride and awe at her disobeying a direct order from President Trump, Mueller said “I’m not going to talk about that.”

“Is that not a conflict of interest?” Rep. Kelly Armstrong pushed. Again, “I’m not going to talk about that,” was Mueller’s response. But then Mueller told the committee that he was aware that special counsel team member Jeanne Ree had represented Hillary Clinton during the investigation into Hillary’s email scandal.

Then there was Mueller’s response to Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’s legal analysis for obstruction of justice and concluding tirade that “this is the United States of America. No one is above the law. No one. The president must be held accountable one way or the other.” Mueller was comfortable noting that while, “I don’t subscribe necessarily to your—the way you analyzed that, I’m not saying it’s out of the ballpark.”

Other times, though, Mueller refused even a dribble of information, hiding behind his buzz phrases: “That is out of my purview”; “This is one of those areas which I decline to discuss”; “I can’t get into that”; and “It’s outside my jurisdiction.”

Selective Lack of Discussion Continues

Here are some other areas Mueller selectively didn’t want to discuss.

Mueller wouldn’t touch anything related to Christopher Steele and the Steele dossier—not even to tell the committee when he learned Steele’s allegations were unverified or if his team interviewed Steele. Nor would Mueller talk about Steele’s October 2016 meeting with the State Department’s Kathleen Kavalec. And he wanted nothing to do with any questions about Glenn Simpson, the front man for Fusion GPS.

Of course, Mueller also claimed to know nothing about Fusion GPS even though they had hired Steele to get dirt on Trump, and the Steele dossier contained loads of accusations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Mueller also didn’t want to discuss the Russia lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, at the center of the Trump Tower meeting, or Veselnitskaya’s dinner with Simpson the night before and the night after she met with Donald Trump Jr. and others under the auspices of sharing dirt on Hillary.

The special counsel also refused to discuss Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese professor who informed George Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on Hillary—the tip that supposedly prompted the investigation into Trump campaign. The special counsel report said Mifsud lied to investigators three times, but Mueller wouldn’t explain why his team didn’t indict Mifsud for making false statements, as they had with Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos.

Mueller also refused to “get into” whether Mifsud had lied to the special counsel, whether Mueller had personally interviewed Mifsud, and whether Mifsud was a “Western Intelligence of Russian intelligence” asset. In fact, Mueller got on such a roll in refusing to answer questions about Mifsud that the special counsel forgot what he had included in his report. Who told Papadopoulos the Russians had dirt on Hillary? Rep. Jim Jordan asked. “I can’t get into that,” Mueller began, before Jordan interrupted:

Yes, you can. You wrote about it. You gave us the answer on page 192 of the report. You tell us who told him. Joseph Mifsud is the guy who told Papadopoulos. He lives in London and teaches at two universities. This is the guy who told Papadopoulos… [Mifsud] who puts the country through this whole saga, starts it off, for three years we’ve lived this now. He lies, and you guys don’t charge him. I’m curious as to why?

“Well, I can’t get into that,” Mueller claimed, shutting down the discussion.

Mueller also was not “going to go further in terms of discussing” the editing in the special counsel’s report that presented a telephone message from Trump’s former lawyer, John Dowd, to Flynn’s attorney in the worst possible light about Trump. The report made it appear that Dowd had improperly asked for confidential information, but the portion edited out of the transcript made clear that Trump’s attorney had done nothing of the sort.

Mueller was also “loathed” to answer Rep. Devin Nunes’s questions about why his report suggested that Ukrainian businessman and Paul Manafort associate Konstantin Kilimnik was a Russian spy, while ignoring “hundreds of pages of government documents—which special counsel Robert Mueller possessed since 2018—describing Kilimnik as a ‘sensitive’ intelligence source for the U.S. State Department who informed on Ukrainian and Russian matters.”

While Nunes noted, “It was important for the committee to know if Kilimnik has ties to our own State Department,” Mueller stayed mum, allowing the report’s portrayal of Kilimnik as a Russian agent connected to the one-time Trump campaign chair Manafort to go unanswered.

Nor would Mueller get into whether, when appointed special counsel, he anticipated investigating Trump’s firing of James Comey. He wouldn’t discuss when he realized there was no “there, there” in the Russia collusion investigation. He wouldn’t discuss whether there were “significant changes in tone or substance of the report made after the announcement that the report would be made available to Congress and the public.” I wonder why!

Then there was Mueller’s legal theory for obstruction of justice. “Not everyone in the justice department agreed with your legal opinion,” a committee member pointed out. “I’m not going to be involved in a discussion on that at this juncture,” Mueller countered.

“In fact, the attorney general himself disagrees with your interpretation of the law, correct?” Again, Mueller demurred, saying he’d leave that up to Barr to say. Mueller did admit, though, that “prosecutors sometimes improperly adhere to the law.”

7. Equal Justice Under the Law For Everyone But Trump

Mueller also hedged when Republican committee members questioned him on the inverted “guilty until proven innocent standard” applied in Part 2 of the special counsel’s report. That portion of the report summarized the possibility of charging Trump for obstruction of justice and presented an unheard of perspective of the prosecutorial role—one that would require Mueller to “conclusively determine[] that no criminal conduct [had] occurred” and set up the special counsel as the judge and jury charged with deciding whether to exonerate the president.

Of course, that was not Mueller’s job, as Attorney General Barr explained during his congressional testimony earlier this year. “The report says that they could not be sure they could clearly say that [Trump] did not violate the law,” Barr explained. But “as you know, that’s not the standard, we use in the criminal justice system,” the attorney general stressed. Rather, “it’s presumed that someone is innocent, and the government has to prove that they clearly violated the law. We’re not in the business of exoneration, not in the business of proving they didn’t violate the law—I found that whole passage very bizarre,” Barr concluded.

Rep. John Ratcliffe attempted to question Mueller on this “bizarre” passage in the report by first reminding Mueller that he had just testified that the special counsel team operated under and followed Department of Justice guidelines. Then Ratcliffe pounced: “Can you give me an example other than Donald Trump where the Justice Department determined that an investigated person was not exonerated because their innocence was not conclusively determined?”

“I cannot,” Mueller admitted, before attempting to justify his nonsense: “But this is a unique situation.” Mueller made that point a second time when confronted with the statute again: “Isn’t it true that on page one of volume two, you state when you’re quoting the statute, the obligation is to either prosecute or not prosecute?” “Generally, that is the case,” Mueller acknowledged, “although most cases are not done in the context of the president.”

Mueller’s right. Most cases are not done in the context of the president. That’s because never before in our country’s history has the losing side in a presidential election attempted a soft coup executed by a resistance burrowed in the DOJ, FBI, CIA, DIA, and, as is now clear, the special counsel’s office.

Washington, D.C.—Today, the House passed the Family Farmer Relief Act unanimously. Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) and Antonio Delgado (NY-19) sponsored this legislation, which would update the bankruptcy code to account for modern challenges in the agricultural industry. Congressman Sensenbrenner delivered the following remarks on the House floor:

"The “Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019” brings urgently needed help to a critical link in America’s economy and a vital part of American community life – the family farmer. 

In 2005, Congress permanently enacted chapter 12 of the Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 12 is specially designed to help family farmers reorganize their debts in time of need and keep their farms going. In the years since, chapter 12 and its streamlined procedures have worked well. 

There has, however, been one problem. As time has passed, and the costs of running a family farm have rapidly increased, the ceiling in chapter 12 on how much debt a family farm can reorganize has lagged behind. Especially with the advent of modern, high-tech farming equipment, the chapter-12 ceiling is no longer high enough to let many farms with typical amounts of debt into chapter 12. 

The Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019 fixes this problem. It raises the ceiling from the old, roughly four-and-one-half million dollar limit to a more reasonable $10 million. This means that more family farmers will be able successfully to reorganize when they need to—to the benefit of the economy and local communities across this land. 

I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the bill. I encourage all my colleagues to support the bill and reserve the balance of my time."

By: Ken Bredemeier of Voice of America News

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump celebrated former special counsel Robert Mueller’s appearances Wednesday before two House of Representatives committees as “a very good day” for himself and fellow Republicans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after Mueller’s testimony about his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and alleged obstruction of justice by Trump that Democrats would push on in their own probes of the president and his administration.

“There was no defense for this ridiculous hoax, this witch hunt that’s been going on for a long time,” Trump told reporters using his oft-repeated dismissals of Mueller’s investigation. “What he showed more than anything else is that this whole thing has been three years of embarrassment and waste of time for our country.”

Trump and Republican members of Congress were critical of House Democrats for calling Mueller to speak before the intelligence and judiciary committees, saying they should be moving on from the probe.

But House leaders speaking after the testimony signaled their intention to keep a focus on the White House, including the prospect of future impeachment proceedings if they find sufficient evidence and public support.

“I do believe that what we saw today is a very strong manifestation, in fact some would say indictment, of this administration’s cone of silence in their cover-up,” Pelosi said. “This is about the oath we take to protect and defend the Constitution, but some of the actions that the administration may have taken — and we’ll see through our investigation — may have jeopardized our national security by strengthening Russia’s hand and interfering in our elections.”

Trump not exonerated

Mueller told members of Congress that his investigation did not exonerate Trump of obstructing justice by trying to thwart the probe, even though the U.S. leader has frequently claimed it did.

As hours of testimony started, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler asked the prosecutor, “Did you totally exonerate the president?”

“No,” Mueller responded, later adding, “The president was not exculpated for the acts he allegedly committed.”

Mueller explained, however, that Trump could not be criminally charged because of a long-standing Justice Department policy prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president and so his team did not “make that calculation” whether Trump should be charged.

Later in the hearing, Republican Congressman Ken Buck asked Mueller, “You believe that he committed — you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?

“Yes,” Mueller replied.

Trump has often attacked Mueller’s investigation, but Mueller, rebuffing one of the president’s frequent claims, said, “It is not a witch hunt.”

Little drama

These two exchanges were among the few dramatic moments during five hours of testimony that had been highly anticipated. To a significant degree, Mueller made good on his vow to stick to the confines of his lengthy report on Russia’s bold interference in the election three years ago and Trump’s alleged effort to inhibit the special counsel’s probe.

But whether the daylong hearings will have a lasting effect on Trump’s chances of winning a second term in 2020 and how Americans view him after hearing directly from Mueller is uncertain.

Mueller deflected dozens of questions about his 22-month probe and the 448-page report produced by his team of prosecutors, including declining to answer Republican lawmakers’ frequent queries about the origins of the Russia probe. He said questions about the start of the Russia investigation 10 months before he was named special counsel in May 2017 were “outside my purview” and currently the subject of a review by the Justice Department.

Mueller said his team unsuccessfully tried for a year to reach agreement with Trump to give testimony in person, but the president only answered some questions in writing and not about alleged obstruction.

He said the written responses were “not as useful as the interview would be,” but that prosecutors felt they were running out of time to subpoena Trump and then engage in a lengthy legal battle with the president’s lawyers over whether he would be compelled to testify in person.

Republicans frustrated, too

Mueller, hewing closely to his report’s findings, acknowledged to Republican Congressman Doug Collins that his investigators concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge Trump or any of his 2016 campaign staff with conspiring with Russia to help Trump win a four-year term in the White House.

Another Republican, Congressman James Sensenbrenner, attacked Mueller for continuing his probe even knowing that Trump could not be charged with a crime, although Mueller said that was permissible under Justice Department guidelines.

“If you’re not going to indict the president, then you’re just going to continue fishing, that’s my opinion,” Sensenbrenner said.

Lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee, who conducted the afternoon session, asked Mueller about his findings on how Russia interfered in the election to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton, his 2016 opponent. Democrats and Republicans alike had trouble getting Mueller to say anything of substance beyond confirming what was already in his report.

He declined to discuss why some people linked to the Russian probe were charged with criminal offenses and others were not. Nor would he venture into discussing any differences he had with Attorney General William Barr over Barr’s highly positive characterization of the report before it was released to the public.

And he wouldn’t be drawn into a discussion of his report as it might relate to impeachment of the president.

The 2016 campaign

But Mueller occasionally disparaged Trump’s conduct during the 2016 campaign, including when at political rallies he talked about WikiLeaks’ disclosure of Democratic officials’ emails stolen by Russian operatives that were damaging to Clinton.

Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley read several Trump quotes about the emails, including, “This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove” and “Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks.”

Asked what he thought of then candidate Trump’s remarks, Mueller said, “Problematic is an understatement in terms of what it displays...”

Republicans insisted Mueller’s report had cleared the president and that the investigation was based on questionable intelligence before Mueller became the special counsel. The Republicans cited a report paid for by Democrats containing largely unsubstantiated and salacious claims by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele about Trump’s time in Moscow before he entered politics.

Nadler and the other Democrats took pains to praise Mueller, a decorated Vietnam war veteran and former FBI chief, and to highlight the most damning evidence against the president cited in the report.

The hearings were equally critical in importance for the 235 opposition Democrats in the House of Representatives, more than a third of whom have called for Trump’s impeachment or the start of an impeachment inquiry. These critics allege that the president committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” — the standard for impeachment — by trying to halt Mueller’s 22-month probe.

The Mueller report said the president directed then-White House counsel Donald McGahn to try to oust Mueller and then publicly lie that Trump had not told him to seek Mueller’s dismissal. Mueller alleged that Trump directed his one-time campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to try to get then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the Mueller investigation. The report also alleged that the president possibly engaged in witness tampering to discourage two key aides convicted by Mueller’s team, Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, from cooperating with investigators.

Even with vocal Democratic opposition to Trump, there appears to be no chance the Republican-controlled Senate would vote to convict Trump and remove him from office even if the House were to impeach him. National polls indicate Americans are opposed to impeaching Trump, either because they do not believe the allegations against him are serious enough to force his removal or prefer to cast an up-or-down vote on his presidency in the November 2020 election.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05), Doug Collins (GA-09), and Kelly Armstrong (ND-AL) introduced the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS Act). This legislation would require that Congress has the opportunity to take an up or down vote on any executive branch agency rule that would have an annual economic impact of $100 million or more.

“It is time for Congress to reclaim its Article I authority by restoring the constitutional balance of power. The American people deserve a more direct say in regulations that could impact their everyday lives. The REINS Act would place a desperately needed check on unelected bureaucrats, saving taxpayers money,” said Sensenbrenner. “We’ve made great strides in growing the economy and increasing people’s take-home pay through historic tax cuts and regulatory reform. Now, Congress must take action to rein in the growth of bureaucratic red tape permanently. I’m proud to sponsor this important bill and thank Congressmen Collins and Armstrong for lending their support to this effort.”

“Article I of the Constitution, in its very first words, gives Congress the federal government’s legislative power, yet federal agencies routinely try to impose burdensome financial consequences without congressional input. That’s not right,” said Collins. “The REINS Act targets substantial regulatory abuses by the executive branch, and it would prevent agencies from enacting rules that have a major economic impact without congressional and presidential approval. I appreciate the leadership of Congressmen Sensenbrenner and Armstrong in introducing this critical legislation, and I encourage Chairman Nadler to take up this commonsense bill.” 

“This bill reasserts Congress’s role in writing laws and increases accountability to the American people by requiring congressional approval of regulations that would cost the economy over $100 million, drastically increase costs for consumers, or otherwise harm the economy,” said Armstrong. “Reining in the unelected bureaucracy will save taxpayer dollars and keep the economy growing.”

You can read a copy of the bill here.

By: Day After Magazine

US President Donald Trump has said that Republicans have had “a very good day” with the appearance of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller before Congress to testify on the Russia probe, adding that the hearings proved to be a “disaster” for Democrats.

“We had a very good day today,” Efe news quoted Trump as saying to reporters at the White House, lambasting yet again Mueller’s independent two-year investigation into Russian election meddling and calling it a “witch hunt.”

“There was no defence to this ridiculous hoax,” Trump said, adding “So this was a very big day for our country. This was a very big day for the Republican Party. And you could say it was a great day for me.”

He called Mueller’s performance before two House committees “horrible,” although the former special counsel – who before that was head of the FBI – in his seven hours of nationally-televised congressional testimony strongly denied the president’s repeated claim that the in-depth investigation was a “witch hunt” pushed by anti-Trump Democrats.

“He had a lot of problems,” Trump said of Mueller’s testimony. “But what he showed more than anything else is that this whole thing has been three years of embarrassment and waste of time for our country.”

“This has been a disaster for the Democrats,” he stated.

The former special counsel who investigated alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and possible coordination between the Kremlin and Trump’s campaign reiterated during his testimony before lawmakers on Wednesday that he did not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice.

Mueller also said Trump could face charges after leaving office.

In much-anticipated televised hearings under oath before the Judiciary and Intelligence committees of the Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives, Mueller responded with a brief “no” when asked by the chairman of the Judiciary panel, Democrat Jerrold Nadler, whether his investigation had exonerated Trump of any crime.

“The president was not exculpated for the acts he allegedly committed,” Mueller said. He also responded “yes” when asked by a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee if Trump could be charged with obstruction of justice after leaving the White House.

Those remarks contradict Trump’s repeated contention in recent months that Mueller and his team had completely cleared him of both collusion and obstruction.

The 74-year-old Mueller, who began his investigation in May 2017 after being appointed special counsel by then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, delivered a final report on his findings to the US Justice Department in March of this year. The Justice Department subsequently released a redacted version to the public a month later and prior to his testimony on Wednesday advised Mueller not to divulge redacted portions of the report.

Mueller concluded that the Kremlin had meddled in the election to help Trump defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton but found insufficient evidence that Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government to influence the election process.

Mueller also stated in the report that he did not make a determination on whether Trump committed the crime of obstruction of justice, noting that US Justice Department policy prevents a sitting president from being charged with a federal crime.

The report, however, stated that if Mueller and his team had conclusively concluded that Trump had not committed obstruction of justice they would have said so.

Wednesday’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee marked the first time Mueller had taken questions from lawmakers about the Russia investigation.

In his remarks, however, he refused to stray from the contents of his report; in fact, a tally by US television network CNN found that he declined to answer questions from lawmakers on 110 occasions and referred them to his report 39 times.

“It is unusual for a prosecutor to testify about a criminal investigation and given my role as a prosecutor there are reasons why my testimony will be limited,” Mueller said in his opening remarks to the House Judiciary panel.

In that regard, the former FBI director refused to answer questions about the origins of the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into alleged Trump-Russia collusion, an investigation it opened in July 2016.

Mueller, who inherited that investigation, in particular told the committee that he could not answer questions about matters relating to the controversial “Steele dossier.”

That report was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, who had been hired by Trump’s political enemies to look into the then-Republican presidential candidate’s ties to Russia and help derail his bid for the White House.

Mueller’s report described as “unverified” the allegations contained in the dossier, which said the Trump campaign may have conspired with Moscow and that Russian intelligence had footage of Trump taking part in lewd acts in a Moscow hotel room and could blackmail him.

Republicans in Congress published a memo early last year alleging that the FBI and the Justice Department engaged in improper surveillance in the Russia-Trump investigation, including using the Steele dossier to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) probable cause order authorizing electronic surveillance of Carter Page, a US citizen who served as a volunteer adviser to the Trump campaign.

Steele’s research was partially funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee via the law firm Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS, the memo noted.

Yet the memo said that neither the initial application for the FISA warrant in October 2016 (shortly before the US presidential election) nor any of its subsequent renewals “disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.”

The memo also said that Steele was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected.”

Democrats later released a counter-memo that said the Republican memo was filled with incomplete information and misleading.

During one of the most tense moments of Mueller’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, he was asked by Republican lawmaker Jim Sensenbrenner why he did not refer any of his findings to the House for possible impeachment.

Mueller responded that a determination on whether Trump should be impeached was not part of his mandate and that that decision would have to be made by House lawmakers.

While Republicans unsuccessfully sought answers to questions about the origins of the Russia probe, Democrats fulfilled their objective of having Mueller reiterate the conclusions of his report to a national audience.

Their hope is that Mueller’s testimony can influence public opinion ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

While Mueller was testifying, Trump took to Twitter and cited the commentary of journalists from conservative television network Fox News.

In one tweet, Trump cited Fox News’ Chris Wallace as saying, “This has been a disaster for the Democrats and a disaster for the reputation of Robert Mueller.”

Hours before the hearings began, Trump questioned Mueller’s objectivity on Twitter and said that a day before being named special counsel he had been interviewed for the position of FBI director and been turned down.

During his testimony, Mueller said he had attended a meeting at the White House about the FBI in May 2017 in the wake of the firing of that agency’s director, James Comey. But he said did not attend the meeting as a candidate.

Mueller’s investigation led to 34 indictments (including of 26 Russian nationals), among them Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen; and his first White House national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (Wi-05) offered the following statement after former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee:

“The presumption of innocence is at the bedrock of our American justice system. Every citizen — even the President — enjoys that right. Therefore, it was not Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s job to exonerate the President, but rather to determine whether there was or was not sufficient evidence to show the President committed a crime. Ultimately, he concluded in his report that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the President or his staff engaged in criminal conspiracy with the Russian government to influence our presidential election. 

Further, while Special Counsel Mueller decided to follow the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion regarding charging a sitting president with a crime, he was not prevented by statute from suggesting that President Trump’s conduct rose to the level of an impeachable offense. He did not. 

The Special Counsel’s thorough investigation lasted nearly two years, cost taxpayers more than $25 million, and resulted in more than 2800 subpoenas and nearly 500 executed search warrants, yet Democrats refuse to accept the report's conclusion. 

Instead, Democrats called today’s hearing, which was designed to be a public spectacle and serve as one final, desperate attempt to build support for impeachment and appease a radical leftist base. Should Democrats continue this obscene charade, they will choose ‘the Resistance’ over the American people. I urge them to move on. This case is closed.”

By: Brendan Cullerton of CBS 58

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin only had one member of Congress actually involved in Wednesday's testimony from Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls.

Sensenbrenner, on the House Judiciary Committee, asked Mueller what the point of his role was without delivering a decisive verdict on potential charges for President Donald Trump.

"Since you decided under the OLC opinion that you couldn't prosecute a sitting, meaning President Trump, why do we have all of this investigation of President Trump?" Sensenbrenner asked during his 5 minute questioning.

Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wausau, agreed with Sensenbrenner, tweeting out a list of resources used by the special counsel.

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, live tweeted the entire process, and posted a video where she said Mueller essentially gave Congress the information they needed to impeach President Trump.

"He actually came this close to saying, well it's our responsibility to impeach him."

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, sent a statement: “Special Counsel Mueller confirmed today that Russia attacked our democracy and interfered in our 2016 election to help elect President Trump. Mueller also made it clear there is a pattern of abusing presidential authority and obstruction of justice by President Trump, who has not been exonerated of wrongdoing. The American people deserve to know the full truth because no one is above the law, including the president.”

Marquette Professor Paul Nolette says the response is so similar to that of the Mueller report because that's all Mueller would talk about.

"Mueller has stuck to the script he said he was going to," Nolette said. "Which is that, I'm not going to say things that are outside of my report."

Nolette suggested people try to look past politics if they're trying to take something away from the hearings, and said one important thing Mueller reiterated is that whether the president was involved or not, Russia attempted to sway a U.S. election, which Nolette called a "breach of international protocol."

"Russia tried to influence the election," Nolette said. "I mean that needs to be a really important point that gets hammered away, ideally by both parties."

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement after voting against a bill that would impose a federal minimum wage hike:

“This one-size-fits-all government mandate would be devastating for many low-wage workers, small businesses, and consumers. It fails to consider the vast differences in cost of living between Berkeley, California and Dodge County, Wisconsin. According to CBO estimates, this legislation could cause the loss of as many as 3.7 millions jobs, and reduce family incomes by $9 billion. Republicans have fought to make the economy strong and the job market great for workers. In fact, we’re in our 15th consecutive month where there are more job openings than job seekers, and real wage growth is increasing. Rather, Democrats are pushing this misguided policy, which would undo all of these successes.”

You can read the CBO report on effects of a $15 minimum wage here.

By: Marie C. Baca and Cat Zakrzewski of the Washington Post

House lawmakers grilled executives from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google in a hearing Tuesday as part of their wide-ranging investigation into big tech companies and the threats they may pose to competition.

The hearing, held by the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee that deals with antitrust, allowed for a bipartisan showing by lawmakers as they quizzed executives on the size and scope of their businesses and put on public display the increasing frustration in the nation’s capital with Silicon Valley.

The internet has become “increasingly concentrated, less open, and growingly hostile to innovation and entrepreneurship,” adding to a perceived “kill zone” related to the tech giants that prevents new companies from competing, said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.

Tech executives rebutted those ideas in their written testimony and in answers to lawmakers’ inquiries, arguing that their organizations face robust competition from a variety of entities and that their products and platforms allow other businesses to be successful.

The antitrust hearing comes more than a month after federal regulators divided up oversight of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple in a move that suggests possible formal probes in the future. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Witnesses included Adam Cohen, director of economic policy at Google; Matt Perault, head of global policy development at Facebook; Nate Sutton, associate general counsel of competition at Amazon and Kyle Andeer, vice president of corporate law at Apple.

House lawmakers said they were launching an antitrust investigation focusing on Silicon Valley in June, a rare bipartisan effort targeting the "dominant, unregulated platforms have extraordinary power over commerce, communication and information online.” The effort aims to review the government’s own tools and agencies — as well as the tech giants — in an effort to determine whether the industry has entered monopoly territory.

The House investigation adds to widening woes for Silicon Valley, as both Democrats and Republicans seem to find agreement in their problems with big tech. President Trump has been a frequent critic, last week suggesting the U.S. government “should be suing Google and Facebook,” potentially on antitrust grounds. A number of candidates for the Democratic nomination for president have echoed concerns about the power the industry wields. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), for example, has called repeatedly for breaking up major tech companies and pledged she would apply a tougher hand to the industry if she’s elected president.

At Tuesday’s hearing, that bipartisan agreement was apparent. Lawmakers asked about a range of topics from digital piracy to the disappearance of Facebook competitor MySpace to Amazon’s competition with sellers that do business on its website -- all with the aim of uncovering how the big tech companies have become so dominant.

Cicilline in his opening remarks criticized federal agencies for not scrutinizing the tech sector's power enough, warning the absence of regulatory action has created “defacto immunity” for online platforms. He slammed the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice for not bringing forward antitrust complaints in the technology sector since the landmark Microsoft case nearly two decades ago, and he criticized federal enforcers for not more closely scrutinizing hundreds of the acquisitions that the tech giants have made in recent years.

“This trend is not the inevitable consequence of technological progress,” Cicilline said. “It is the result of policy choices we are making as a country.”

Setting the tone for the hearing, Cicilline also read aloud from testimony submitted by one of the tech giants’ top critics, Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor who has said Facebook should be broken up. Wu warned lawmakers that the current concentration of power in the tech industry poses a risk to U.S. innovation.

“We are becoming a country of giant concerns, admirable in their way, but where incremental improvement is the norm, where bureaucracy rules, and stagnation may be inevitable,” Wu wrote in testimony submitted to the committee. “We will become a country where inventors and entrepreneurs dream of being bought, not of building something of their own.”

Legislators targeted Facebook and Amazon with the most questions, while Google and Apple faced fewer inquiries. Lawmakers asked targeted questions, including how often the companies change their terms of service -- something that might prove difficult for users to track how their data is used or what they’re agreeing to. They also probed whether the companies are targeting potential competitors with their acquisition strategies.

In one of the most pointed inquiries, Joseph Neguse (D-Colo.) mentioned that Facebook owns four of the top six social networks by active users. "Is Facebook, in your view, a monopoly?” he asked.

Facebook’s Perault denied it’s a monopoly. He also defended the social media giant, saying it faces fierce competition for advertising revenues, bringing in less than a quarter of total U.S. online ad spending.

Addressing similar concerns, Amazon’s Sutton said the online retail giant’s share of the retail space as comparatively tiny —still just 4% total in the U.S. and smaller globally — and touted the positive effects it has had for the third-party businesses that sold $160 billion worth of products on its site last year.

Lawmakers also asked the tech executives to agree to certain conduct standards during the House’s investigation. Cicilline told the organizations not to engage in opposition research activities; Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) asked that the companies not retaliate against organizations or individuals involved in the review. In both cases, each executive gave their word that their respective company would comply.

Still, while bipartisan support for greater antitrust scrutiny of the tech industry has been mounting in Washington — the panel’s top Republican called lawmakers to take a “fair and balanced” approach in their investigation. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (Wis.) warned against “misguided” calls to break up tech companies like Facebook, which have become increasingly common among Democrats.

“Just because a business is big doesn’t mean it is bad,” Sensenbrenner said. “Antitrust laws focus on the conduct of companies and whether that conduct is bad. They do not exist to punish companies just because they’re big.”

The criticism of tech’s power at the antitrust hearing reflected a broader skepticism of Silicon Valley companies on the Hill at a trio of key hearings on Tuesday. Facebook executive David Marcus faced a beating from lawmakers as he testified about the social network’s plans to launch a digital currency, known as Project Libra. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, launched his opening remarks at the hearing by calling Facebook “dangerous.”

“Now Facebook may not intend to be dangerous, but surely they don’t respect the power of the technologies they’re playing with," Brown said. "Like a toddler who has gotten his hands on a book of matches, Facebook has burned down the house over and over and called every arson a learning experience.”

Meanwhile Karan Bhatia, Google’s vice president for public policy, was in the hot seat at the Senate Judiciary Committee, as Republican senators slammed the company for allegedly censoring conservative voices online. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a freshman senator who has emerged as one of the tech industry’s top critics in Congress, dug into the company on a host of issues—including how the company protects children from pedophiles on YouTube and the company’s business plans in China.

“Clearly trust and patience in your company and the behavior of your monopoly has run out,” Hawley said. “It has certainly run out with me, and I think it’s time for some accountability.”

By; Cristiano Lima and John Hendel of Politico

President Donald Trump threatened to open a probe into whether Google is committing “treason.” Sen. Bernie Sanders said he would push to break up Facebook, Google and Amazon. Sen. Ted Cruz took aim at Google in his campaign against alleged censorship of conservatives. And Democrats accused the internet giants of squelching competitors and slammed Facebook’s plans to offer a digital currency.

And that was just Tuesday.

But for all the flak Silicon Valley was taking from across Washington, the tech companies maintain a major advantage: Despite their shared suspicion and growing distrust of the tech industry, Democrats and Republicans appear to hold little common ground on what the problem is and how to fix it. And that could mean the odds of legislative punishment in the near term remain low.

The attacks Tuesday dealt with a hodgepodge of issues and sometimes-incompatible complaints, though often in withering terms, in particular at the morning Senate hearing where Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown called it “delusional” for Facebook to expect people to trust the company with their wallets.

“Their motto has been 'move fast and break things.' And they certainly have," Brown said at a hearing on Facebook's planned digital currency, Libra. "They moved fast and broke our political discourse, they broke journalism, they helped incite a genocide and they’re undermining our democracy."

At Cruz’s censorship hearing later in the day, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), compared Google to children who repeatedly sneak into the cookie jar despite their parents’ warnings: “I feel like you all push the boundaries until your hand gets slapped.”

She also scoffed at the $5 billion fine that the Federal Trade Commission has proposed imposing on Facebook for its violations of users’ privacy — a complaint that puts the conservative Tennessean in much the same camp as liberal Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. "It should have been $50 billion," Blackburn said.

But amid the back-and-forth at a slew of congressional hearings, clear divisions were evident between Democrats and Republicans and even sometimes within the parties themselves, highlighting the lack of consensus on just what to do about tech companies that dominate so many aspects of Americans' lives.

Cruz (R-Texas) demanded that Google fork over data about how its algorithms work, to answer Republican questions about whether its main search engine and its YouTube video service discriminate against conservative viewpoints. Cruz again raised the prospect that Congress may pare back the online industry’s 23-year-old legal immunity for lawsuits over user-posted content, a running theme lately among tech critics in both parties.

But Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, the top Democrat on Cruz’s Judiciary subcommittee, hammered Republicans for even having Tuesday’s tech bias hearing — saying they are "browbeating the tech industry for a problem that does not exist."

In the House, Judiciary committee Democrats led by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) drilled representatives of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple over whether they've engaged in anti-competitive conduct, to the detriment of small retailers and the newspaper industry.

But the top Republican on the antitrust panel, Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), warned against calls for sweeping antitrust action, saying that “just because a business is big doesn’t mean that it is bad.”

Earlier in the day, Republicans appeared split over Facebook's Libra digital currency. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) called it "wildly premature" to pass judgment on the project. But Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) appeared to share Brown’s skepticism, quipping: "I have great respect for Facebook but Facebook now wants to control the money supply. What could possibly go wrong?"

Trump had kicked off the day by entertaining a gravely serious accusation about Google: He said his administration would look into a charge by tech investor and Facebook board member Peter Thiel — and, Trump tweeted, "a great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone!” — that Google may be committing “treason” through its work in China. That suggested that he may urge the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the matter. The DOJ did not respond to a request for comment on Trump's statement.

The president later told reporters at the White House that he "would like to recommend to the various agencies, including perhaps our attorney general ... to maybe take a look" at what he called a "very strong charge" by Thiel.\

At the Cruz-led hearing Tuesday, Google public policy chief Karan Bhatia firmly pushed back against Thiel and Trump's assertions.

Addressing questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bhatia said Google has "absolutely not" found evidence of Chinese government infiltration of the company or its data; allowed considerations involving work in China to influence any decisions on U.S. government contracts; or turned a blind eye to any leaks of Google software or data to Chinese intelligence.

"Fundamentally in China we actually do very little today," Bhatia said.

Tech companies have deployed a range of strategies to deal with the increasing scrutiny in Washington.

They've generally kept a low-profile in the face of Trump's attacks, denying that politics influences their content decisions, while arguing more vocally against Democratic calls from Warren and others to break them up. Executives including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg have argued their companies' scale allows them to invest money in developing new technologies and compete with Chinese rivals.

On the privacy front, many of the companies say they support federal privacy regulations in lieu of state-level rules, though Democrats warn against any national standard that could that gut strict privacy regulations in states like California.

Despite the long Washington list of tech grievances, agreement on any one particular issue remains elusive. Democrats continue to be the most vocal about their unhappiness with the tech companies on data privacy and competition, while Republicans keep pressing their argument that conservatives are the victims of the industry’s online censorship — something the tech companies emphatically deny.

As POLITICO reported last week, Congress is running out of time to reach an agreement on one area where both Republicans and Democrats have seemed to be largely aligned — enacting federal privacy legislation to restrain how companies like Facebook can profit off of people’s personal data. Last week’s news about the FTC’s proposed $5 billion fine for Facebook largely drew a yawn from Wall Street, and the company saw its stock price rise to its highest level in more than a year.

And tech firms also continue to benefit from Trump’s policies despite his escalating rhetoric against Silicon Valley. Just last week, his trade advisers went to bat against France’s plans for a new “digital services” tax that would hit companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon, while Apple continues to escape the brunt of Trump’s trade sanctions on China.

On Monday, Trump even defended the billions of dollars in economic incentives that New York City had offered to Amazon for its proposed second headquarters, calling it “terrible” that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and fellow activists had helped block the deal. That was even though Trump frequently criticizes Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, for everything from its effect on brick-and-mortar retailers to Bezos’ ownership of The Washington Post.