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Robert Mueller undercuts Trump's key claims about special counsel's report

Was Trump totally exonerated? "No" says Mueller

In the first few minutes of questioning Wednesday, former special counsel Robert Mueller refuted President Trump's key claims about the Mueller report

President Trump has repeatedly insisted the Mueller's report totally exonerated him and concluded that there was no obstruction of justice. But Mueller, in his highly anticipated testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning, said that was not accurate. 

"No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!" the president tweeted the day after the conclusion of Mueller's investigation and report was announced, claims he has repeated since the report's release. 

Mueller, however, in response to a line of questioning from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, confirmed his report did not exonerate the president and did not make a determination that the president did not obstruct justice. Attorney General William Barr ultimately decided not to file charges on obstruction. Mueller said the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted was considered at the time. 

Here is the exchange between Nadler and Mueller: 

Nadler: "Does that (the Mueller report) say there was no obstruction?"

Mueller: "No."  

Nadler: "In fact, you were actually unable to conclude the president did not commit obstruction of justice, is that correct?" 

Mueller: "Well, we at the outside determined that we — when it came to the president's culpability — we needed to go forward only after taking to account the OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) opinion that indicated that a president, a sitting president, cannot be indicted." 

Nadler: "So the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice — is that correct?" 

Mueller: "That is correct."

Nadler: "And what about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the president?"

"No," Mueller responded. 

"Now in fact, your report expressly states that it does not exonerate the president?" Nadler followed up.

"It does," Mueller responded. 

This point was made in the special counsel's report, and it was Mueller himself reiterated it in his only remarks on the matter before Wednesday's hearings. "If we had confidence that the president did not clearly commit a crime, we would have said so," he said in late May.

Mr. Trump earlier this week said he didn't think he'd watch Mueller's testimony, but Mueller was clearly on his mind Wednesday morning. The president fired off eight tweets about Mueller before his testimony began. 

"It has been reported that Robert Mueller is saying that he did not apply and interview for the job of FBI Director (and get turned down) the day before he was wrongfully appointed Special Counsel," the president tweeted Wednesday morning. "Hope he doesn't say that under oath in that we have numerous witnesses to the...interview, including the Vice President of the United States!" 

During the hearing, Mueller denied that he had had a conversation with the president about becoming FBI director. He talked to Mr. Trump, he said, but "not as a candidate."

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