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Three things about Congress buried in the Mueller report

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- From President Donald Trump's signals to his former fixer about his upcoming -- and false -- congressional testimony to questions about whether senior administration officials committed perjury, Congress is repeatedly at the center of key parts of the Mueller report.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team, after poring through reams of documents and conducting hours upon hours of interviews, did not find that Trump tried to withhold information from congressional investigators. What's more, the report repeatedly describes the president and top aides as concerned with the committees that were investigating them and collaborating on how to approach dealing with those panels.

For instance, then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, sometimes an adviser to Trump, recalls a June 2017 telephone call from the president about his desire to remove Mueller. Christie advised against it "because the President would lose support from Republicans in Congress if he did so," Mueller's team wrote. Here are three other Congress-related things you might have missed in the Mueller report.

THE RUSSIAN LAWYER

Much has been made about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that Donald Trump Jr. enthusiastically set up because he thought Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was bringing dirt on Hillary Clinton. The Trump team long claimed the meeting was about Russian adoption policy, until the president in August 2018 admitted it was to get dirt on Clinton that they never actually received.

But Mueller's team disclosed that she told a Senate committee that her true intentions were not to speak to Trump Jr., Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and since-convicted campaign chairman Paul Manafort about Clinton or adoptions.

 

Mueller's report, citing Veselnitskaya's statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee in November 2017, claimed she went to the Manhattan Trump HQ "on the matter of assisting me or my colleagues in informing the Congress members as to the criminal nature of manipulation and interference with the legislative activities of the US Congress."

"In other words, Veselnitskaya claimed her focus was on Congress and not the Campaign," Mueller wrote, adding this notable qualifier: "No witness, however, recalled any reference to Congress during the meeting."

SESSIONS CLEARED

As all of Washington poured over Mueller's 448 pages, the focus was on just how close the special counsel came to stating that the president of the United States committed crimes. But the special counsel's team also examined whether others did, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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