On Wednesday, July 24, former special counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — and no matter what Donald Trump might have said about it on the White House lawn, it was not a good day for the president. Here's why:
1. Mueller confirmed that the president's actions met the criteria to charge a person with obstruction of justice crimes.
California Representative Ted Lieu's questions for Mueller clarified that Trump's actions met the criteria to obtain and maintain a conviction for obstruction of justice, and the reason Mueller didn't indict the president was because of a long-standing Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opinion that says you can't indict a sitting president.
In fact, it was Republican Ken Buck from Colorado that elicited one of the more surprising answers from Mueller when he asked if the president could be charged with obstruction of justice after he left office; Mueller said yes.
2. There was evidence of a broader conspiracy between Trump and Russia, just not enough to obtain and sustain a conviction.
Multiple congressional representatives spent a lot of time ensuring that collusion was not something that Mueller investigated, and subsequently established that while Mueller did not have sufficient evidence to obtain and sustain a conviction for conspiracy, the report is not void of evidence. As Rep. Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee reiterated, there were dozens of instances of contact between Russia and Trump associates. When the president said there is no evidence, it's incorrect.
3. Mueller clarified that a person does not need to successfully obstruct justice to be guilty of obstructing justice.
One of the GOP talking points has always been that the president can't have obstructed justice because Mueller was never fired; basically saying you have to successfully obstruct justice to be guilty of obstructing justice. However, Mueller clarified that a person does not have to successfully obstruct justice to be successfully charged.
4. The Russians attacked our elections in a sweeping and systematic fashion, and the Trump campaign welcomed it.
Not only that, but in a hearing this week the Director of the FBI Chris Wray said Russia was still a threat. Mueller revealed in a line of questioning from Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi that the FBI is currently investigating Trump associates vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
5. Trump was vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
In a line of questioning from Krishnamoothi, Mueller agreed that anyone who lies publicly — and a foreign government knows they lied — is vulnerable to blackmail. This was clear in the case of Michael Flynn when he lied about talking to the Russians about sanctions and the former acting attorney general warned the White House that he was compromised because the Russians knew the truth and could expose him. The same is true for Trump when he lied to the public about having no deals with Russia when there was evidence he was coordinating a Trump Tower project in Moscow that stood to make him over $100M. Mueller did not explicitly confirm this, but the implications are obvious: the president lied, and he was vulnerable to Russian leverage.
Whether Democrats will view these revelations as sufficient evidence to open an impeachment inquiry remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the public is considerably more aware of Mueller's findings despite a political spin.