Former special counsel Robert Mueller finally made his long-awaited appearance before Congress on Wednesday, testifying for several hours — first before the House Judiciary Committee, and later, the House Intelligence Committee.
Mueller had been openly reluctant to testify, and once he was subpoenaed, he was clear that he did not want his testimony to go beyond facts previously laid out in his own report. At a press conference in May, Mueller vowed that he would not “provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
The former special counsel, in his testimony, went out of his way to stick with that policy.
According to NBC News, Mueller deflected questions 198 times over the course of his testimony before the two committees. The network also pointed out exactly how the investigator refused to answer.
On several occasions, Mueller said “I stick with the language that’s in front of you” or “I will leave your answer to our report,” as well as other variations on that answer. Other times, he said the questions he was asked were outside the purview of his investigation or the report, or simply declined to comment or answer certain questions, especially those that spoke to the internal deliberations of the Office of Special Counsel.
In addition to not answering questions, the former FBI director frequently asked for members of the committees to repeat their questions, as he either hadn’t heard them or believed that the members of Congress had spoken too quickly.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Mueller didn’t make news during his testimony.
Per another NBC News story, Mueller declared before the Intelligence Committee that his probe “is not a witch hunt,” and he defended his staffers when members of the Judiciary Committee accused them of bias. He also argued that Russia is continuing to attend to interfere in American elections.
Per Slate, Mueller had answered “correct” to a question during the morning hearing from Rep. Ted Lieu, asking if he didn’t indict the president due to a Justice Department legal opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. After video of the exchange went viral throughout the day, Mueller corrected himself during his opening statement in the afternoon session.
“That is not the correct way to say it,” the former special counsel said. “As we say in the report, and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”