‘It certainly doesn’t pass the smell test…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) Former special counsel Robert Mueller might have lied before Congress during his testimony last month, according to a new report.
Before Mueller appeared before Congress, he held an impromptu press briefing to clarify parts of his team’s report after a federal judge threatened to hold the investigation in contempt of court over specific language.
When asked about the judge’s questions during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Mueller denied that his sudden press appearance had anything to do with the court order.
“The question is, did your May 29 press conference have anything to do with the fact that the previous day the judge threatened to hold your prosecutors in contempt for misrepresenting evidence?” Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., asked Mueller.
“No,” Mueller responded.
This exchange has received little media attention, but it could carry potential legal consequences for Mueller if congressional Republicans want to take action.
Following Democrats’ claims that the Mueller Report provided a roadmap for Congress to impeach, the press conference confirmed for many that Mueller likely would have charged President Donald Trump with obstruction of justice if not for longstanding Justice Department policy.
But, in fact, the purpose of Mueller’s impromptu, 9-minute press conference on May 29 was largely to stave off legal repercussions of his own, according to RealClearInvestigations.
The day before, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich called Mueller’s team into a closed hearing to ask why Mueller had overstated Russia’s influence in the 2016 election.
“The government shall refrain from making or authorizing any public statement that links the alleged conspiracy in the indictment to the Russian government,” Friedrich stated in her ruling, which was private at the time. “Willful failure to do so in the future will result in the initiation of contempt proceedings.”
At the time, the public had no idea about this legal rebuke, so Mueller’s press conference didn’t appear coordinated. But Mueller’s media appearance that day reportedly satisfied Friedrich, who said in a July opinion that Mueller’s press conference “demonstrated” the government had complied with her order.
“In delivering his remarks,” she said, “the special counsel carefully distinguished between the efforts by ‘Russian intelligence officers who were part of the Russian military’ and the efforts detailed ‘in a separate indictment’ by ‘a private Russian entity engaged in a social-media operation where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to interfere in the election.’”
Because of this direct connection, McClintock and other Republican lawmakers think Mueller intentionally scheduled a media appearance to squash any rumors and questions about his report’s credibility.
“It certainly doesn’t pass the smell test,” McClintock said of Mueller’s answer before Congress.
McClintock said he wants to see Mueller referred to the Justice Department for investigation of possible perjury.
“If he lied, he’s guilty of perjury and lying to Congress,” McClintock said. “I think this would be of interest to the U.S. attorney investigating misconduct in this matter and the inspector general’s office.”
Of course, McClintock said this isn’t likely since Democrats control the House Judiciary Committee, which would need to refer the matter to the Justice Department.
“The committee is run by Jerry Nadler and the Democrats, so I suspect the answer is ‘No,’” he said.