Opinion by Sen. Adam Schiff on Mueller’s testimony before Congress
July 26, 2019
On Wednesday, the Congress finally had its long awaited chance to hear directly from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Now that a little time has passed, I wanted to send you a note with my thoughts.
We knew going into the hearing that the Special Counsel was a reluctant witness who preferred not to testify at all, believing his report should speak for itself. But we also felt it was important for the American people to hear from Mueller directly about his work, rather than have its meaning filtered through the deceptive lens of Bill Barr, or worse, the President himself. I wanted to use this opportunity, with millions of Americans watching, to lay out the full breadth of what Mueller’s report describes in exacting detail: Disloyalty to country. Greed. And lies.
Lots of lies.
First, Mueller was absolutely clear that Russia intervened in our elections in a sweeping and systematic fashion, and they did so to help elect Donald Trump. You and I have known that for a long time, but with all the efforts by the President and his allies to muddy the waters, it was important to hear it from Mueller directly.
What’s more, Mueller also made clear that the Russians approached the Trump campaign and offered them illicit help, and that the campaign never reported it to authorities. In fact, they welcomed the help of a hostile foreign power, encouraged it, planned for it, and built a campaign around it. And then they lied over and over to cover it up.
Second, Mueller made it clear that his report did not exonerate the president. Far from it.
Or in Mueller’s prosecutorial words — “The president was not exculpated.” And when asked if the President could be charged when he left office, Mueller said that was true.
Third, Mueller defended his investigation.
The president has constantly called the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” and the idea that Russia interfered to help him win, a “hoax.” When asked, Mueller simply answered:
“It is not a witch hunt.” And, “Absolutely, it was not a hoax.”
Finally, Mueller made it clear that this isn’t about history — it’s about the present, and about the future, with elections that are right around the corner. The Russians are still interfering, “doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign.” Mueller continued, “We have underplayed to a certain extent that aspect of our investigation,” and that Russia’s efforts could do “long-term damage to the United States that we need to move quickly to address.”
And yet Trump said just last month that if he was offered dirt on his opponent by a foreign power again, he’d probably take it.
It’s clear that Trump won’t take the threat of foreign interference seriously. In fact, he still welcomes it. In the words of Robert Mueller, “problematic is an understatement.” Mitch McConnell, for his part, just killed another election security measure.
Trump’s loyalty is to himself and his financial gain, not the country. And that avarice was shared by those closest to him in the 2016 election – a willingness to put money ahead of patriotism and ethics. That is disloyalty to country. Strong words, but justified given what Mueller found, and what we all see each and every day.
But as much as Mueller shared, he also made clear the limits on this investigation. Many questions remain unanswered which go to the heart of protecting our democracy. Some go to the red line the President drew around his finances, and the fact that Mueller seems not to have “followed the money.” Congress must continue to investigate, to go to court where necessary, to hold the President and his administration to account, and to get the answers necessary to protect the country from any potential compromise. We will find the facts and we will follow them wherever they lead.