Republican Rep. Tom McClintock Reacts To Mueller's Testimony
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
In front of the House Judiciary Committee today, former special counsel Robert Mueller stuck mostly to the script - that is the information contained in his report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the question of whether President Trump obstructed justice. Questions from Republicans largely focused on the integrity of the investigation. Mueller's answers shed little light, which led to moments such as this from Republican Congressman Tom McClintock of California.
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TOM MCCLINTOCK: And it's starting to look like, you know, having desperately tried and failed to make a legal case against the president, you made a political case instead. You put it in a paper sack, lit it on fire, dropped it on our porch, rang the doorbell and ran.
KELLY: And Congressman McClintock joins me now.
MCCLINTOCK: Well, thank you.
KELLY: That is quite a visual you've painted there, so I want to start by asking, did you find anything of value in today's testimony?
MCCLINTOCK: Well, I think it was largely a fizzle. He essentially stuck to what he had written in the report without going into the underlying evidence, which is my great frustration. We're starting to find a number of instances where the report is not fully supported by the evidence or critical details are left out. And a few of the examples I used were Konstantin Kilimnik, for example, who's identified throughout the report as a Manafort associate with ties to Russian intelligence. We've since discovered that Kilimnik was actually a U.S. intelligence source. Mueller knew that at the time, didn't put that in the report.
KELLY: Although wasn't he working on orders from the Justice Department saying you can't go beyond the report? You're not allowed to comment on certain things that may interfere with open investigations.
MCCLINTOCK: He refused to explain why critical details that are in the underlying evidence were not reflected in the report. And that's just one example of many.
KELLY: I was curious in that piece of tape we played from your questioning - your allegation that he couldn't make a legal case, so he made a political one. Of the many things one might accuse Robert Mueller of, playing partisan politics does not seem to be up there. And if he were, he's a Republican.
MCCLINTOCK: It became pretty clear that he was not running the investigation - his staff was. And his staff was best described by Gregg Jarrett of Fox as the team of partisans.
KELLY: Why do you say that's clear that he wasn't running the investigation?
MCCLINTOCK: Because he was not able to answer many, many of the questions that were put to him and, in fact, insisted on having his chief of staff there at his side to coach him, which is unprecedented.
KELLY: I want to ask just about one of the top line takeaways from this and follow on something you told us when you were on the show back in April. You told us you agreed with President Trump's characterization of the Mueller report as a total exoneration. Today, as you will have heard, Mueller was explicitly asked, did you exonerate the president? He said no. Do you view the report and his testimony as total exoneration of the president?
MCCLINTOCK: I think the report is very unreliable because we are discovering that the underlying evidence does not fully support the report.
KELLY: So I hear you're saying you still have questions. There are more details that you would like to add to the record here. I'm hearing other Republicans say case closed, end of story. Can we not all move on already? Where does this leave things?
MCCLINTOCK: Oh, the case is certainly not closed. Don't forget. You have the inspector general that will be issuing the report very soon on the whole origin of this claim backed up by the Steele dossier that the president was colluding with the Russians. We now know the Steele dossier was a complete fabrication.
KELLY: We should note Mueller declined to take questions on that today, so we didn't get any light shed on that today. Go on.
MCCLINTOCK: Correct. And right behind that, we have the U.S. attorney's office investigating misconduct in both the intelligence and justice agencies. And we expected that to come out. And it has to because this is the use of the most powerful agencies in the federal government. And if, as is now becoming apparent, they were being used not by the Russian government but by the American government first to influence the 2016 election - and having failed that, to then undermine the duly elected president - that is a major development in American history. And we have to get on top of it.
KELLY: Republican Congressman Tom McClintock of California - Congressman, thanks so much.
MCCLINTOCK: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.