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Home / US / I gave Robert Mueller a testimony for 20 hours. Here's what Congress expects.

I gave Robert Mueller a testimony for 20 hours. Here's what Congress expects.



Darren Samuelsohn is a senior White House reporter for POLITICO.

The first thing you notice during a marathon when you watch Robert Müller testify at the congress is his voice. That's not because his voice stands out – though in a sense it's a clear and direct tenor – but because you hear it at all.

For two years, the Special Envoy led the Russia probe, the man At the center of the most debated and speculated American investigation in decades, he said nothing in a public forum. The official statements of his team were based on charges and litigation, as well as some statements in the file that were directed against media reports or other critics. Neither Mueller nor any of his prosecutors gave an interview, and Mueller himself was spied occasionally at the airport or walking through a street in Washington, DC, or dining with his wife in his cozy restaurant. Never talk to the public.

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This is likely to change soon: Muller was called before the Judiciary and Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives to inform him of the results of his lengthy investigation into Russia's interference in parliament presidential elections 2016 and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump. The Democrats and the Special Representative's representatives have been struggling for weeks to set a date for the start of the blockbuster hearings and are expected to appear next month.

So what can we expect? It is impossible to know how Muller will respond to questions that Democratic and GOP legislators are hiring for him. But when it comes to the character at the center of the drama, there is actually evidence of how it will go on. During his last 12 years in public life, as an FBI director under two presidential administrations, Muller testified more than 50 times before Congress. He was drafted in front of a joint House and Senate panel to discuss collecting information and counter-terrorism related to the events of September 11, 2001. he presented plans after the terrorist attacks for a comprehensive restructuring of the FBI; and a dozen years later, during his retirement retreats in 2013, he discussed everything from the bombings of the Boston Marathon to a series of controversial government surveillance programs. They are all archived on C-SPAN – more than 140 hours of video footage of the man the Americans have been waiting for.

I've spent more than 20 hours watching this footage, a representative sample of big and small hearings on a range of issues that span the governments of George W. Bush and Obama, friendly and hostile legislators.

Excerpts, the images are instantly familiar: Cable News has been showing the same Müller footage on a loop since its appointment in May 2017. But the sound is always off. This is a mistake. Listening to Mueller's speeches helps to penetrate some of the myths that only seemed to grow without press conferences or public speaking while he was the particular lawyer. What do you show us? And what does Congress need to know when meeting with one of the country's most respected bulldog police officers?

Müller has worked on complex topics before. A lot.

The Russia investigation feels absolutely unique and, in a sense, it is. But there is a reason why then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein chose Müller for this job: he is a specialist in high-level, complex investigations.

One week before September 11, Mueller took over the post of FBI director, and his first months in office were marked by the investigation of the missing warning signs that led to the terrorist attacks. He led the restructuring of the office from a direct law enforcement agency to a national security organization. And he implemented controversial information-gathering and monitoring strategies in the face of serious concerns about civil liberties.

He has also dealt with complicated matters concerning Russia. Speaking during his Senate Confirmation Hearing in 2001, Mueller talked about how he could help the FBI rebuild its reputation for several "serious and highly publicized issues," including the Soviet and Russian mole agent Robert Hanssen. A decade later in June 2011, Mueller talked about the continuing threat of Russian espionage and found that last summer ten Russian spies had been arrested who had spent years as sleeping agents in the US

States are the "biggest players" in espionage against the US, Müller replied: "It would be difficult to pick out some, I think it was raised in other hearings, but you have countries like Russia and China, others, maybe Iran."

He is too cautious of investigations and relies on his experience as a federal prosecutor in Boston, Washington and San Francisco and head of the Department of Justice's Department of Justice. Answering a question from then-Sen in 2001. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) On How To How he tries to violate anyone's first-amendment rights when conducting politically sensitive investigations "Whether you have cause enough, with d em next step or not. "

Mueller has been thinking earlier about targeting presidents.

Not too far back with the Bill Clinton impeachment saga In 2001, the Senators, in their rear-view mirror, urged Müller in his nomination hearing to talk about how he would handle a high-level criminal investigation in which the CEO himself The aim was. "As an FBI director, would you be empowered to deny the President any information on national security issues because the President was the subject of a criminal investigation?" Asked Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican.

"There may be an opportunity where it is possible, yes," Müller replied.

And then there's this remarkable exchange from the same hearing with the then Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Who asked Muller if he would be willing to use the independence that comes with a ten-year tenure, to search the Ministry of Justice danger to the proper functioning of the judiciary. "

" I do not rule out the possibility that the circumstances are such that I think it necessary to circumvent the normal course of the procedure by first turning to the Attorney-General before perhaps reporting to Congress, " answered Muller. "But I do not rule out the possibility that, given the necessary independence of the investigative bureau, it would not come at a time when one is looking for an alternative in which one believes that political pressure is exerted on the investigation process.

"That can be anywhere else in the executive, beyond the Attorney General," added Müller. "It could be the Congress, but I would examine and investigate every option if I thought the FBI was under pressure for political reasons. And if this were the situation described here, I would look into other alternatives or a variety of alternatives to make sure that justice prevails.

This reaction, cautious as it is formulated, is remarkable in the light of more recent events: Müller's appointment came only after Sessions himself, as Trump's Attorney-General, had to withdraw from Russia because of political conflicts.

He is good-natured and disciplined, but he can not quite clean up his tie.

Mueller attended a boarding school with John Kerry and later served four years in Vietnam at the Marine Corps and both types of training encounter his physical presence. He is very polite and usually has direct eye contact with his questioners. He thanks employees who bring him a glass of water.

He can be funny too, and despite the seriousness of a job involving terrorists and all kinds of bad guys, Müller smiles. "I'm sitting here, that's all I can say," Müller said to a laughter during his Senate confirmation hearing at the end of July 2001, when asked how he felt after making a polygraph required for an FBI manager be.

Müller's preferred wardrobe – dark suit, red or blue tie, and always a white shirt – was scrutinized and even admired in the two years he was in charge of the special advisory role. He often wears his watch like a soldier with his face on the inside of his wrist. He rarely deviates from this distinctive look, but on almost every gig I've seen, his tie is slightly crooked, with a noticeable slant to the left.

Müller does not like to suffer from dumbbells.

Müller can also be irritated and apparently does not want to be interrupted if he answers a question. And he will not hesitate to correct Congressional members, as demonstrated by a heated exchange in 2013 with Rep. Louie Gohmert of R-Texas, who repeatedly pointed out why the FBI had not checked out a tip that the brothers blamed for Boston A local mosque was hit by marathon bombs. "Your facts are not all in all …" said Mueller, as the two men talked over each other, before the FBI director added a moment later that his agents had been there talking to "Imams a few months earlier" ,

As Gohmert continued, Mueller drew a line. "I answered the question, sir," he said.

Müller can also be honest. He will admit it if he knows no answer. And he will also be brutally honest, even if the answer he gives does not sound very politically appealing.

"Well, it depends on your definition of accountability, but I would say I did not hold anyone responsible for disciplining or firing someone," Müller told Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich During a five-hour joint hearing in a marathon on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2002.

None of this could prepare us for this week's hearings. [19659003] Mueller is a famous accountant, and many congressional insiders expect him to stick to the script from his investigation and do not do much about the more than 400 pages in his report.

But Müller also has access to information That even Congress has not seen, and that means he can really make news at any moment. Therefore, his upcoming hearings are unlikely to follow the usual audio book.

"This will be a very different hearing from what Congress normally does," said Ted Kalo, former Democratic Advocate General of the House Judiciary Committee. While the members generally have a good idea of ​​what the answers of a witness are to their questions, all bets for the special counsel are excluded. "Nobody here knows what's going to happen to Muller's minute-by-minute answers," Kalo said.

"He will bring the report to life," Californian Democrat referee Ted Lieu added, asking what he expected from a hearing from Muller.

Some even say that Mueller's performances, broadcast live on TV from wall to wall, have the potential to open new paths of investigation and perhaps even pave the way for impeachment.

"Often, public hearings can change considerations," said Greg Brower, former head of the FBI's Congressional Bureau. "I know that this is a long way given the current reality, but there are even some Republicans on the hill who, hearing Bob Mueller and explaining the details, may also decide that the impeachment is in order. "

He already knows many of the players.

There are many emigrants on Capitol Hill, but 14 of the members who questioned Muller during his visit to the House Judiciary Committee in June 2013 are still nearby. There he met Rep. Jerry Nadler, today's chairman, who wondered aloud if he had received bad news from Müller about a post-September 11 surveillance program that Edward Snowden had just revealed in a leak to The Guardian a week earlier.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), A novice at the time, is now the highest-ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. (On this occasion, the two men agreed on the need to update the federal surveillance laws.)

Californian MP Zoe Lofgren, another high-ranking Democrat on the panel, requested details of how the FBI should proceed during this 2013 hearing When searching for classified information, Leakers distinguishes between journalists who publish sensitive material and their sources.

"We obviously do not consider this category, which you have listed as offenders in any way," Müller replied to reporters and editors, adding, "If you go to court, you must do so That particular set of materials that have leaked out was given to a particular person for publication, but the focus is on the person making the leakage. "

Rep. Jim Jordan, now a senior member of GOP Judiciary, joined Mueller in 2013. He grinned at the outgoing director for not knowing who was leading the FBI's IRS investigation to select conservative Tea Party groups for further review. "This is the most important problem on the ground in the last six weeks. You do not know who is leading the case? Who is the lead investigator? "Complained to Jordan.

" At this intersection, I do not know who the … "Müller replied before Jordan shut him down. After Müller's impending return to Congress, the Ohio Republican said his memory was with him six years old exchange still fresh.

"It was not an impressive performance by Mr. Müller," he said. "I remember it."


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