Former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE on Wednesday avoided answering dozens of questions over the course of two separate House hearings, declining repeatedly to engage with lawmakers on subjects beyond the scope of his public report.
Mueller's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee marked his first time answering questions about the findings of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
But the former special counsel evaded scores of questions, using a variety of phrases to parry away inquiries he deemed beyond his reach or inappropriate to discuss.
"I can't speak to that," Mueller said when asked by Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — EU calls out Russian hacking efforts aimed at member states House lawmakers ask Cyber Ninjas CEO to testify on Arizona audit GOP seeks to keep spotlight on Afghanistan as Dems advance Biden's .5T spending plan MORE (D-Md.) whether a "client" named in his report was the president.
"I don’t feel comfortable speculating on that," he responded when asked if Attorney General William Bar should have released the special counsel report's summaries to avoid public confusion.
"This is outside my purview," he said when asked repeatedly by Republicans about the Steele dossier and Fusion GPS.
"I direct you to the report," he told several questioners throughout the day.
The former special counsel's unwillingness to expound on his answers or address numerous questions stymied some lawmakers, but did not come entirely by surprise. Mueller said in a public statement in May that his report is his testimony, and that he would not go beyond that.
In his opening statements to both committees Wednesday, Mueller made clear to lawmakers there were swaths of topics he would not touch because of ongoing investigations and longstanding precedent against discussing internal Department of Justice deliberations.
"I am not making any judgments or offering opinions about the guilt or innocence in any pending case," Mueller told the House Intelligence Committee. "It is unusual for a prosecutor to testify about a criminal investigation, and given my role as a prosecutor, there are reasons why my testimony will necessarily be limited."
But that did not dissuade some lawmakers from trying to get Mueller to elaborate on his answers.
Multiple Democrats asked Mueller to read aloud from his report to add additional weight to its findings. But in each case, he declined.
"I would be happy to have you read it out loud," a smiling Mueller told Raskin when asked if he could read one passage.
Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarThree Democrats call for investigation into Sidney Powell to move 'swiftly' Court rulings put Biden in tough spot with Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' policy Supreme Court ruling on Texas abortion law rattles lawmakers MORE (D-Texas) noted that Mueller said in May that the Constitution requires a process other than the justice system to accuse a president of wrongdoing.
"That process … is that impeachment?" Escobar asked, seeking confirmation from Mueller.
"I’m not going to comment on that," Mueller replied.
Republicans had similar luck seeking responses from the former special counsel about the origins of the Russia investigation, which some in the GOP have suggested was nefarious and biased against Trump.
Asked by Rep. Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotLiberal group launches campaign urging Republicans to support Biden's agenda Blinken grilled in first hearing since Afghanistan withdrawal Bipartisan group of lawmakers call on Biden to ensure journalists safe passage out of Afghanistan MORE (R-Ohio) about Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, Mueller replied it was outside his purview.
When Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzBipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy Eric Trump lawyer in New York attorney general's fraud case quits Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally MORE (R-Fla.) sought to grill Mueller on Christopher Steele, the author of a dossier of salacious allegations about Trump's connections to Russia.
"As I said before and say again," Mueller said, "it’s not my purview."