Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) asked former special counsel Robert Mueller several questions about Christopher Steele and the Steele dossier at today's House Judiciary Committee hearing. Mueller declined to answer Rep. Gaetz's repeated questions about the Steele dossier and often responded, "That's beyond my purview."
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Director Mueller, can you state with confidence that the Steele dossier was not part Russia’s disinformation campaign?
ROBERT MUELLER, FMR. SPECIAL COUNSEL: In my opening statement, that part of building of case predated me by at least 10 months.
REP. GAETZ: Paul Manafort’s alleged crimes regarding tax evasion predated you but you didn’t have a problem charging him. Matter of fact, this Steele dossier predated the attorney general and he had no problem answering the question. When Senator Cornyn asked the Attorney General the exact question I asked you Director, the Attorney General said, and I’m quoting: “no, I can’t state that with confidence and that’s one of the areas I’m reviewing. I’m concerned about it and I don’t think it’s entirely speculative.”
Now If something is not entirely speculative then it must have some factual basis, but you identify no factual basis regarding the dossier or the possibility that it was a part of the Russian disinformation campaign.
Now, Christopher Steele’s reporting is referenced in your report. Steele reported to the FBI that senior Russian foreign ministry figures along with other Russians told him, and I’m quoting from the Steele dossier: “extensive evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign team and the kremlin.” Here’s my question: Did the Russians really tell that to Christopher Steele, or did he just make it all up and was he lying to the FBI.
MUELLER: Let me back up just a second if I could. I said earlier with regard to the Steele that is beyond my purview.
REP. GAETZ: No, it is exactly your purview Director Mueller and here’s why. Only one of two things are possible, right? Either, Steele made all this up and there were never any Russians ever telling him of this vast conspiracy that you didn’t find. Or Russians lied to Steele.
Now, if Russians were lying to Steele to undermine our confidence in our duly elected president that would seem to be precisely in your purview because you stated in your opening that your organizing principle was to fully and thoroughly investigate Russian’s interference.
But you weren’t interested in whether or not Russians were interfering through Christopher Steele, and if Steele was lying, you should have charged him for lying like you’ve charged a variety of other people. But you say nothing about this in your report. Meanwhile director, you are quite loquacious on other topics. You write 3500 words about the June 9th meeting between the Trump campaign and the Russian lawyer, Veselnitskaya.
You write on page 103 of your report that the President's legal team suggested, and I’m quoting from your report the meeting might have been a setup by individuals working with the firm that produced the Steele reporting.
So, I’m going to ask you a very easy question, Director Mueller. On the week of June 9th, who did Russian lawyer, Veselnitskaya, meet with more frequently? The Trump campaign or Glenn Simpson, who was acting as an operative for the Democratic National Committee?
MUELLER: Well what I think is missing here is the fact this is under investigation elsewhere in the Justice Department and if I can finish, sir, if I can finish, sir. Consequently, it is not within my purview. The Department of Justice and FBI should be responsive to questions on this particular issue.
REP. GAETZ: It is absurd to suggest that an operative for the Democrats was meeting with this Russian lawyer the day before and the day after the Trump tower meeting and yet that's not something you reference. Glenn Simpson testified under oath that he had dinner with Veselnitskaya the day before and the day after this meeting with the Trump team. Do you have any basis as you sit here today to believe that Steele was lying?
MUELLER: I'll say again it is not my purview. Others are investigating…
REP. GAETZ: It is not your purview to look into whether or not Steele is lying? It is not your purview whether or not anti-Trump Russians are lying to Steele? And it is not your purview to look at whether or not Glenn Simpson was meeting with the Russians the day before or after when you write 3,500 words about the Trump meeting?
So, I’m wondering how these decisions are guided? I look at the Inspector General's report citing from page 404 –
Page stated: “Trump is not ever going to be president, right? Right.”
Strzok replied: “No, he is not. we'll stop it.”
Also, in the Inspector General's report someone identified as “Attorney #2,” this is page 419 replied: “Hell no” and then added “Viva la Resistance.”
Attorney #2 in the Inspector General's report and Strzok both worked on your team, didn't they?
MUELLER: Pardon me?
REP. GAETZ: They both worked on your team, didn’t they?
MUELLER: I heard Strzok, who else were you talking about?
REP. GAETZ: Attorney #2 identified in the Inspector General's report. Did he work for you?
MUELLER: Peter Strzok worked for me for a period of time, yes.
REP. GAETZ: So, did the other guy who said, “Viva la Resistance.” Here’s what I am kind of noticing Director Mueller, when people associated with Trump lied, you threw the book at them. When Christopher Steele lied, nothing. So, it seems to be when Glenn Simpson met with Russians, nothing. When the Trump met with the Russians, 3500 words. And maybe the reason there are these discrepancies in what you focused on is because the team was so biased and pledged to the resistance. And pledged to stop Trump.