WASHINGTON – Former special counsel Robert Mueller III, in quiet and occasionally halting testimony, warned Congress on Wednesday that Russia is still interfering with American democracy and offered some sharp criticism of President Donald Trump.
“They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign,” Mueller said of the Russians, during roughly six hours of highly anticipated testimony before two House committees about his investigation of Russian election interference and Trump’s possible obstruction of justice.
Mueller’s appearance offered the prospect of pulling back the curtain on his secretive investigation, but the former prosecutor and FBI director strove – by day’s end successfully – not to reveal any details beyond his staff’s 448-page report.
Some Democrats had hoped his testimony would lead to a fresh groundswell of support to begin impeachment proceedings, but that seemed unlikely in the immediate aftermath of the hearings, which produced no blockbuster revelations. Mueller seemed reluctant to even utter the word “impeachment.”
Republicans pronounced the matter dead, and Trump declared victory.
“We had a very good day, the Republican Party,” the president told reporters at the White House. “There was no defense of what Robert Mueller was trying to defend . . . this ridiculous hoax, this witch hunt.”
He called Mueller’s performance “horrible.”
Mueller, who only hours earlier had specifically denied his investigation was a hoax or a witch hunt, appeared grim and determined in the packed hearing room but also at times confused or unable to hear the questions being asked – particularly in the morning, when the House Judiciary Committee questioned him about whether the president obstructed justice by attempting to impede Mueller’s…