LIVE: Mueller says he didn't subpoena Trump because he expected Trump to fight it and wanted to expedite 'the end of the investigation'
The former special counsel Robert Mueller appeared before Congress on Wednesday for a blockbuster hearing on his findings in the FBI's Russia investigation.
Mueller's team was conspicuously silent during its 22-month-long investigation of Russia's election interference, whether members of President Donald Trump's campaign conspired with Moscow, and if Trump sought to obstruct justice throughout the course of the probe.
Wednesday's hearing is the second time Mueller has spoken out publicly about the investigation.
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The former special counsel Robert Mueller appeared before Congress on Wednesday for a historic hearing on his findings in the FBI's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 US election, and whether President Donald Trump sought to obstruct justice throughout the course of the investigation.
According to a lightly redacted version of Mueller's report that was released to the public in April, Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to charge Trump or anyone on his campaign with conspiracy related to Russia's meddling.
He declined to make a "traditional prosecutorial judgment" on whether Trump obstructed justice, but his team emphasized that if they had confidence the president did not commit a crime, they would have said so.
Read more: Mueller said Trump could be charged with a crime, including obstruction of justice, after he leaves office
Mueller's report also implied that the remedy for accusing a sitting president of wrongdoing does not come from the Justice Department, but from Congress.
Since then, congressional Democrats have launched a sprawling effort to investigate Trump for potential wrongdoing, and Democratic aides told INSIDER this week that their main objective with Wednesday's hearing is to drum up public support for Trump's impeachment.
Scroll down for live updates from the hearing:SEE ALSO: Democrats hope Mueller's highly-anticipated testimony will help them bring his report to life — but their biggest obstacle could be Mueller himself
In response to Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Mueller explained that he didn't subpoena President Donald Trump because he wanted to "expedite" the end of the investigation and avoid a drawn-out legal battle with Trump.
"We negotiated with him for a little over a year," Mueller said. "But when we were almost toward the end of our investigation, we had no success to get the interview of the president, we decided we did not want to exercise the subpoena power because of the necessity of ending the investigations."
In an exchange with former CIA officer Rep. Will Hurd, Mueller warned that Russia is planning to interfere in the US 2020 presidential election as well, and "many more countries are developing the capability to replicate what the Russians have done."
In response to questioning from both Democrats and Republicans, Mueller repeatedly declined to discuss the origins of the counter-intelligence investigation or the Steele dossier.
Mueller confirmed to Rep. Eric Swalwell that his investigation was "hampered" by important witnesses deleting emails and text messages, and witnesses communicating through encrypted apps.
Mueller said that "problematic was an understatement" to describe Trump's frequent praise of Wikileaks, which posted hacked materials from the DNC to interfere in the 2016 election.
Mueller declined to characterize as it as "providing aid and comfort to an enemy," however.
Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah asked Mueller about the conspiracy theory that someone from the federal government tipped off media outlets about the January arrest of Roger Stone, which Mueller declined to discuss.
Mueller also denied that anyone in his office was responsible for anonymously-sourced stories in the Washington Post and New York Times reporting that Mueller's team was unsatisfied with Barr's summaries of their report.
Responding to Rep. Jackie Speier, Mueller said that Russian interference "was not a hoax," adding, "indictments we returned against the Russians were substantial in their scope."
In response to a question from Rep. Andre Carson, Mueller agreed that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's "contacts with Russians close to Vladimir Putin and his efforts to exchange private information on Americans for money left him vulnerable to blackmail," as Carson phrased it.
When Carson asked Mueller whether Manafort's actions constituted a "betrayal" of America's "Democratic values," Mueller responded: "I can't agree with that. Not that it's not true, but I cannot agree with it."
In response to questioning from Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, Mueller clarified that the Russian interference by computer hacking and on social media was meant to benefit the Trump campaign, but did not speculate as to whether it materially influenced the election outcome.
Also in response to Himes' questioning, Mueller said that political campaigns should always report offers of help from foreign governments to the FBI.
In his opening statement, Mueller said, "Over the course of my career, I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy, the Russian government interfering in our election is among the most serious."
At the beginning of Mueller's session before the Intelligence Committee, Mueller also clarified that he "did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime," and clearly refuted Trump's frequent claims that his investigation was a "witch hunt," saying, "it's not a witch hunt" for the first time out loud.
GOP Ranking Member Rep. Devin Nunes called the hearing "the last gasp of the Russia collusion theory" and like his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, criticized the Steele dossier and called claims of collusion "a hoax."
At around 1 PM, Mueller returned for another session of testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, led by Chairman Adam Schiff, who gave a damning overview of Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
"The story of the 2016 election is also a story about disloyalty to country, about greed and lies. Your investigation determined that the Trump campaign and Donald Trump himself knew that a foreign power was intervening in our election, and welcomed its meddling into their strategy and used it," Schiff said, adding, "worse than all the lies and the greed is the disloyalty to country."
Mueller declined to criticize Attorney General William Barr's summaries of his report, which were widely denounced at the time for distorting Mueller's findings and understanding the evidence of obstruction.
Mueller gave a long and firm defense of his staff after Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota pressed Mueller on his staffers' previous political donations and representation of Democrats.
"We strove to hire those individuals that could do the job. I've been in this business for almost 25 years, and in those 25 years, I have not had an occasion once to ask somebody about their political affiliation. It is not done. What I care about is the capability of the individual to do the job and do the job quickly and seriously and with integrity," Mueller said.
In response to a question from Rep. Greg Steube of Florida, Mueller thoroughly refuted a frequent claim made by Trump and his allies that Mueller interviewed for the job of FBI director with Trump before being appointed as special counsel.
Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/1154052716450029568?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw NEW: Robert Mueller contradicts Trump's claim that he interviewed with Trump for the FBI director job: "My understanding is I was not applying for the job. I was asked to give my input on what it would take to do the job."Trump repeated the claim today https://t.co/kIMl7KRoRt pic.twitter.com/78d2Nrv77r
In response to a question from Rep. Val Demmings of Florida, Mueller said that his investigation was hindered by false statements and deletion of evidence by Trump campaign and administration officials.
Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/1154050681055191040?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw DEMINGS: "There were limits on what evidence was available to your investigation?"MUELLER: "That's true."DEMINGS: "Lies by Trump campaign officials and Trump administration officials impeded your investigation."MUELLER: "I would generally agree with that."#MuellerHearings pic.twitter.com/ekE7YRBMQ1
In response to a question from Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Mueller confirmed that he could indict Trump with a crime after he left office, and that an unsuccessful attempt to obstruct justice is "still a crime."
Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/1154038990003036161?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw Congressman: "Could you charge the President with a crime after he left office?"Mueller: "Yes."#MuellerHearing pic.twitter.com/ZCx89HWfE1
Rep. Matt Gatez of Florida, also a strong Trump ally, gave energetic and animated questioning of Mueller about the Steele dossier, which Mueller explained did not factor into his investigation.
Gaetz also questioned Mueller on his brief hiring of former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was the subject of an internal investigation for exchanging anti-Trump texts with FBI lawyer Lisa Page and left the Mueller team after the texts were discovered.
Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/1154035938546180098?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw Matt Gaetz is basically the human embodiment of a Hannity monologue. He's grilling Mueller about Christopher Steele and the dossier. pic.twitter.com/gSS40tmpKU
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, also a strong Trump ally, gave a fiery monologue in his questioning of Mueller questioning why he didn't charge Joseph Mifsud for lying to the FBI.
Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/1154033949867413504?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw Why didn't Mueller charge Joseph Mifsud for lying to the FBI? pic.twitter.com/34E6TSigcM
Mueller got into a tense exchange with Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who accused Mueller of "perpetuating injustice" by investigating Trump. Mueller simply responded: "I take your question."
Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/1154026420043206656?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) gives an impassioned defense of President Trump to explain his actions that could be considered obstruction of justice pic.twitter.com/OUcgx38Vnu
Mueller confirms findings that Paul Manafort shared campaign polling data with the ex-Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik but declines to elaborate.
Mueller reiterated during the hearing that the Russians believed they would benefit from the victory of a specific 2016 presidential candidate. "It would be Trump," Mueller said.
Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren also asked Mueller about prosecutors' finding that Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, shared confidential polling data in 2016 with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Russian intelligence operative.
But Mueller refused to discuss how the Russians may have used that information to interfere in the campaign, saying, "That's a little bit out of our path."
GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe tears into Mueller and says he applied an unfair legal standard to Trump.
Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe, a former prosecutor, used his speaking time to rip Mueller's decision — or lack thereof — on the obstruction question.
In his report, Mueller said that he did not make a "traditional prosecutorial judgment" on whether Trump obstructed justice because of a 1973 DOJ policy that states a sitting president cannot be indicted.
But Ratcliffe slammed prosecutors for highlighting that they if they were confident Trump did not commit a crime, they would have said as much. He also implied that Mueller's team applied an unfair legal standard to the president.
"Because there is a presumption of innocence," Ratliffe said, "prosecutors never, ever need to conclusively determine it."
Mueller replied, "This is a unique situation," adding that that was why he couldn't exonerate the president.
But Ratcliffe interrupted the former special counsel and said Mueller's entire volume on obstruction of justice was not authorized or appropriate.
Republicans say they will use the hearing to question Mueller about the origins of the Russia investigation.
Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member on the committee, hinted that Republicans will use the hearing to question Mueller about the origins of the Russia investigation.
The DOJ's inspector general is also currently investigating the matter, and Attorney General William Barr said earlier this year that the results of that investigation will be released sometime this summer.
"Those results will be released, and we will need to learn from them to ensure the government's intelligence and law enforcement powers are never again turned on a private citizen or political candidate as the result of the political leanings of a handful of FBI agents," Collins said.
Mueller: "My staff and I carried out this assignment with that critical objective in mind: to work quietly, thoroughly, and with integrity so that the public would have full confidence in the outcome."
Mueller began his opening statement by establishing that his investigation was conducted thoroughly and fairly.
"My staff and I carried out this assignment with that critical objective in mind: to work quietly, thoroughly, and with integrity so that the public would have full confidence in the outcome," he said.
Mueller says he will not address questions about the origins of the Russia probe or the Steele dossier.
Mueller also emphasized that he will not address questions related to the origins of the Russia investigation or the so-called Steele dossier, an explosive collection of memos alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
"The report is my testimony, and I will stay within the text," Mueller said.
He added, "I will not comment on the actions of the attorney general or of congress. I was appointed as a prosecutor, and I intend to adhere to that role and the department standards that govern it."