Mueller declines to answer dozens of questions from lawmakers

Former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report 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 RaskinHouse panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Pelosi, allies seek to keep gun debate focused on McConnell Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch 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 EscobarCongressional Hispanic Caucus calls for answers on Mississippi ICE raids Consoler in Chief like Biden is the perfect antidote to a Divider in Chief like Trump Democratic senator on possibility of Trump standing up to the NRA: 'That's just such BS' 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 ChabotRepublican congressman hopes Trump crowd will avoid 'send her back' chants at Ohio rally Mueller declines to answer dozens of questions from lawmakers House passes annual intelligence bill MORE (R-Ohio) about Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, Mueller replied it was outside his purview.

When Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzI'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Gaetz cleared by Florida Bar after Cohen tweet probe Bottom Line 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."