There have been a lot of noteworthy clips from the Mueller “obstruction of justice” testimony, but Representative Matt Gaetz definitely brought the anger that a lot of Americans are feeling today. Mueller appears to want to testify about everything except what the Republicans find to be important, such as the Steele dossier and the origins of the Trump investigation. Gaetz gave a voice to the frustrations that many are experiencing, and pressed Mueller on why he feels like those matters aren’t up for discussion, given the scope and nature of the investigation.
He began his line of questioning with asking whether Mueller could state “with confidence that the Steele dossier was not part of Russia’s misinformation campaign,” but the former Special Council head refused to comment, claiming that it “predated him by at least 10 months.” That’s when Gaetz brought up some interested facts and prosecutions from the Mueller investigation.
Gaetz: “Director Mueller, can you state with confidence that the Steele dossier was not part of Russia’s misinformation campaign?”
Mueller: “No I said in my opening statement that part of the building of the case predated me by at least ten months.”
Gaetz: “Yeah, Paul Manafort’s alleged crimes regarding tax evasion predated you, you had no problem charging them. And matter of fact this Steele dossier predated the Attorney General and he didn’t have any problem answering the question when Senator Cornyn asked the Attorney General the exact question I asked you, Director, the Attorney General said and I’m quoting ‘No, I can’t state that with confidence and that’s one of the areas I’m reviewing. I’m concerned about it, and I don’t think it’s entirely speculative.’ Now if something is not ‘entirely speculative,’ then it must have some factual basis, but you identify no factual basis regarding the dossier or the possibility that it was part of the Russia disinformation campaign.”
He then goes on to detail that Mueller covered the Steele dossier and that it was reported that the Russians told Steele there was “extensive evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign team and the Kremlin.” Gaetz demanded to know whether this was exactly what was told to Steele. When Mueller attempted to defer to his “that’s not my purview” shtick which he established at the top of the hearing, Gaetz put that down.
“No it is exactly your purview, Director Mueller, and here’s why. Only one of two things is possible, right? Either Steele made this whole thing up, and there were never any Russians telling him of this vast criminal conspiracy that you didn’t find, or Russians lied to Steele. Now if Russians were lying to Steele to undermine our confidence in our duly-elected President, that would seem to be precisely your purview because you stated in your opening that the organizing principle was to fully and thoroughly investigate Russia’s interference but you weren’t interested in whether or not Russians were interfering through Christopher Steele and if Steele was lying, then you should have charged him with lying like you charged a variety of other people. But you say nothing about this in your report.“
At the end of this verbal lashing, Mueller once more indicated that this investigation was “outside his purview” and referred Gaetz to the FBI.
Then Gaetz moves on to Peter Strozk and Lisa Page, who engaged in a text conversation that appeared to indicate that they intended to use their positions within the FBI to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and prevent Trump from becoming president. Gaetz also noted that in the Inspector General’s report, an individual identified as “Attorney number two” said “Hell no” and “viva la resistance,” and demanded to know if these individuals had worked with Mueller. After hemming and hawing on the issue, Mueller finally confirmed that Strozk had “worked with me for a period of time,” but refused to indicate one way or the other about “attorney number two.”
Before running out of time, Gaetz once again noted some curious discrepancies in the way Trump’s people were treated by Mueller.
“And here’s what I’m kinda noticing, Director Mueller,” Gaetz concluded. “When people associated with Trump lied, you threw the book at them. When Christopher Steele lied, nothing. And so it seems to be that when Glenn Simpson met with Russians, nothing. When the Trump campaign met with Russians, thirty-five hundred words. And maybe the reason why there are these discrepancies in what you focused on is because the team was so biased, pledged to resistance, pledged to stop Trump.”
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