When congressional lawmakers question former special counsel Robert Mueller today, they won’t need to dig far to tease out compelling testimony.
It’s all there, in the report. All they need to do is ask Mueller to detail his findings — which are shocking enough.
Few people in the country have read the full report (it is a daunting 448 pages). Now lawmakers have a duty to tease out the most pertinent facts so people following the hearing at home can get the highlights in a few hours. Here’s what lawmakers should ask:
• When did the Trump campaign know that Russia was attacking American democracy? Before anyone else, the report shows.
• How did the Trump campaign react? Staffers worked to exacerbate Russia’s attack.
• How? The campaign shared internal polling data with a Russian agent, and Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, who is in jail, repeatedly met with an individual linked to Russian military intelligence and provided him with Trump’s internal campaign strategy memos, including the campaign’s plan to target voters in key Midwestern states.
• What did then-candidate Donald Trump know about the release by WikiLeaks of emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee? He knew that Russia was behind the hack, and he knew the releases were coming.
• What did Trump do? He set up back channels to coordinate on the timing of the releases.
• How did Trump respond publicly when asked about WikiLeaks’ releases? He covered up for Russia saying it could have been a 400-pound man sitting on his bed leaking information.
Pretty astounding stuff.
But that’s just the beginning. Lawmakers should ask about the numbers in Mueller’s report, because those are jaw-dropping as well.
• How many contacts were there between Trump’s campaign team and Kremlin-linked operatives? 272.
• How many meetings? Thirty-eight, and during the investigation, President Trump lied and sought to cover them up.
• How much criminal activity did the special counsel’s office find? Enough to make 37 indictments and obtain seven guilty pleas or convictions.
• How many instances of potential obstruction of justice did Mueller find? He identified 10 potential instances of obstruction, ranging from witness tampering and lying to investigators to destroying evidence. But because the president of the U.S. can’t be charged, Mueller’s hands were tied.
• What would happen to anyone else who was found to have engaged in obstruction of justice? They would go to jail. Obstruction of justice is a felony.
• Was Trump involved in this mess? Yes.
• Did Trump tell people to lie? Yes. He told White House counsel Don McGahn to lie about Trump’s order to fire Mueller. Then Trump told McGahn to create a false record about it.
• Did Trump lie himself? Heck yes.
Trump helped write a false statement for his son to give publicly about a meeting the campaign had with Russian operatives at Trump Tower.
Trump also publicly said during the 2016 campaign he had no business ties to Russia, even though his team was secretly working with Russian government officials on building a Trump Tower Moscow, and they signed a letter of intent with Russia about the Moscow project during the campaign.
• Did Trump try to use the attorney general’s office to protect himself from the special counsel’s investigation? Absolutely. Trump pushed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to use his position as head of the Department of Justice to protect him by limiting the scope of the Mueller investigation. He also tried to remove Sessions from his post.
• Did Trump’s campaign staffers try to deceive investigators or destroy evidence? Yes.
It’s all there — and more — in the pages of the Mueller report.
The cold hard facts of the report should be the focus of the hearing. They show obstruction. They show conspiracy. Mueller has told the tale, but the American people have yet to hear it in his own words.
Lawmakers should use this hearing to ask questions that dig in to the report’s shocking findings about a president who believes himself above the law.
Now here’s a question for Congress: What are you going to do about it?
Lisa Gilbert is vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.