Robert Mueller testifies

2:56 p.m. ET, July 24, 2019

Mueller refuses to answer a question that was addressed in his report

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Robert Mueller just refused to answer a question that is addressed in his report.

He wouldn’t talk about whether he tried to interview Donald Trump Jr.

The Mueller report says, in plain language, that the special counsel’s office asked Trump Jr. for a voluntary interview, but he refused.

Here's that exchange:  

Swalwell: "Did you want to interview Donald Trump Jr.?"

Mueller: "I'm not going to discuss that."

Swalwell: Did you subpoena Donald Trump Jr.?

Mueller: "And I'm not going to discuss that."

This came up in the Mueller report, in a section about the Trump Tower meeting:

 “Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner participated on the Trump side, while Kaveladze, Samochomov, Akhmetshin, and Goldstone attended with Veselnitskaya. The Office spoke to every participant except Veselnitskaya and Trump Jr., the latter of whom declined to be voluntarily interviewed by the Office.”
2:49 p.m. ET, July 24, 2019

Mueller has deferred or declined to answer questions at least 60 times in the second hearing

As of 2:45 p.m. ET, Robert Mueller has deferred or declined to answer questions from members of Congress at least 60 times in the second hearing, according to a CNN analysis. Of those instances Mueller referred lawmakers to his report at least 3 times.

Earlier today, while testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee Mueller deferred or declined to answer questions from lawmakers at least 124 times during his three and a half hours of testimony. Of those instances, Mueller referred lawmakers to his report at least 39 times.

2:35 p.m. ET, July 24, 2019

Trump embraced WikiLeaks in 2016. Mueller just condemned his actions.

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

Former special counsel Robert Mueller broke new ground, perhaps for the first time, when he criticized Trump for embracing WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, and touting the hacked Democratic emails they released before the election.

Asked to react to Trump’s behavior, Mueller said:

“Problematic is an understatement, in terms of what it displays, in terms of giving some hope or some boost to what is and should be illegal activity.”

What he's talking about: The “illegal activity” likely refers to the hacking of Democratic emails by Russian intelligence officers. They hacked the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, then funneled the stolen emails to WikiLeaks, according to the Mueller report. WikiLeaks later published many of the emails.

Trump touted the new leaks at nearly every stop on the campaign trail in the final weeks of the race, sometimes reading directly from emails at his rallies and seizing on thinly sourced conspiracy theories.

Democrats have condemned Trump for doing that, saying he was openly embracing Russian meddling. For the first time, Mueller agreed with that assessment when he said Trump’s actions were “problematic.”

To be clear, it is not a crime to read aloud from news stories or hacked emails that are posted online. The crimes were committed by the Russians who hacked the emails. But by embracing WikiLeaks, candidate Trump aligned with Russia’s goals of disrupting the campaign and weakening Clinton’s chances of winning.

Almost all of the Democratic candidates running for the 2020 campaign have pledged that they won’t use any hacked materials during the campaign to attack their opponents. Trump has not made this promise and has publicly suggested that he’s more than willing to accept help from foreign governments in 2020.

2:29 p.m. ET, July 24, 2019

Trump tweets clip from first Mueller hearing

President Trump just tweeted an 8-second clip from the first hearing in which Rep. Doug Collins questions Robert Mueller.

The clip is watermarked PBS NewsHour and comes from RNC Research. It shows this exchange:

Collins: At any time in the investigation was your investigation curtailed or stopped or hindered?
Mueller: No.

 

2:53 p.m. ET, July 24, 2019

A president can be indicted once out of office — but crimes carry statute of limitations

While Department of Justice policy counsels against indicting a sitting president, a president can be indicted once out of office. But every crime carries a statute of limitations — a time limit, starting from the day a person commits a crime, within which criminal charges must be brought.

For most federal crimes, the statute of limitations is five years. So if Trump leaves office in January 2021, a five-year statute of limitations would prohibit criminal charges for any conduct occurring before January 2016; if he leaves office in January 2025, then the statute of limitations would bar charges on anything he did before January 2020.

There is, however, an important exception: In some instances, federal law permits "tolling" of the statute of limitations — essentially a pause on the countdown clock. Tolling happens, for example, when a defendant is a fugitive or during the pendency of a request from the United States to a foreign country for evidence.

While the issue has never been decided in court, prosecutors likely would argue that the statute of limitations should be tolled while the President is in office. Prosecutors might make the unusual argument that being president is, for legal purposes, the same as being a fugitive: In both cases, the subject cannot be charged and apprehended, through no fault of the prosecution. Essentially, prosecutors might argue, the President — by virtue of his position — hides from the law, in plain sight.

On the other hand, a defendant likely would argue that the statute of limitations is not tolled if, in effect, the Justice Department prevents itself from charging. The prohibition on indicting a sitting president is not imposed on the Justice Department by the Constitution, statute or judicial decision; it is a prudential limit that the Justice Department has imposed on itself. Such a self-limitation, a defendant would argue, does not toll the statute of limitations.

2:33 p.m. ET, July 24, 2019

Mueller says he is not sure what would happen if a president serves past the statute of limitations

Andrew Harnik/AP
Andrew Harnik/AP

Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley just asked former special counsel Robert Mueller what happens if a president — who can not be indicted while seated, but could be once they leave office — serves longer than the statute of limitations.

Mueller said he wasn't sure what would happen.

Here's part of their exchange:

Quigley: "Thank you for being here. Earlier today, and throughout the day, have you stated the policy that a seated president cannot be indicted, correct?"

Mueller: Right. 

Quigley: And upon questioning this morning, you were asked that could a president be indicted after their service, correct?

Mueller: Yes. 

Quigley: The follow-up question that should be concerning is, what if a president serves beyond the statute of limitations? 

Mueller: I don't know the answer to that one. 

Why this matters: Several times today, Mueller has testified that a US president could be charged after he or she leaves office. He has not, however, said if Trump should be prosecuted after he leaves office.

2:26 p.m. ET, July 24, 2019

Trump is thrilled by outcome of first hearing, sources say

President Trump started making phone calls early this morning — agitated by the idea that Robert Mueller would be appearing on Capitol Hill for his testimony soon.

But sources say his demeanor has now changed from one of irritation to one of triumph.

Trump was pleased with the way Republicans from the House Judiciary Committee aggressively questioned and lectured Mueller. 

Mark Meadows, one of his key allies on Capitol Hill who sat in on the hearing this morning, appeared at the White House moments ago. 

Trump is now in the West Wing, but is still keeping a close eye on Mueller's second hearing before the House Intelligence Committee.