Mueller declines to answer dozens of questions from lawmakers

Former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay 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.

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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 RaskinBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements House Oversight committee asks DHS for information on family separation Maryland Rep. Raskin endorses Warren ahead of Iowa caucus 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 EscobarThe Hill's Morning Report - Bolton charge ups ante in witness showdown The Hill's Morning Report - Report of Bolton tell-all manuscript roils Trump defense Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address 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 ChabotDCCC to run ads tying 11 House Republicans to Trump remarks on entitlements Koch network could target almost 200 races in 2020, official says Judiciary Committee abruptly postpones vote on articles of impeachment MORE (R-Ohio) about Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, Mueller replied it was outside his purview.

When Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzGaetz in Twitter battle with Florida House Republican Apple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones Conservatives slam Warren's call to put transgender women in women's prisons 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."