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Fact checking Robert Mueller's congressional hearing

Image: Special counsel Robert Mueller will deliver testimony on his investi
Special counsel Robert Mueller will deliver testimony on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump. Copyright Chelsea Stahl NBC News; Getty Images
Copyright Chelsea Stahl NBC News; Getty Images
By Jane C. Timm with NBC News Politics
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NBC News fact checked various claims and statements made by Mueller, members of Congress and the president. Here's what we found.


Former special counsel Robert Mueller testified Wednesday before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees about his investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.

NBC News fact checked various claims and statements made by Mueller, members of Congress and the president. See all the claims, and the facts, below.

Trump says there was 'NO OBSTRUCTION' of Mueller's investigation. Is that true?

Trump claimed on Wednesday that an unimpeded investigation could not have been obstructed, pointing to a Fox News contributor's analysis. It's unclear exactly what point in Mueller's testimony the contributor is referring to here, but Mueller did indeed say Wednesday that his investigation was not "stopped or hindered."

But Mueller being allowed to finish his investigation isn't the same thing as reaching a conclusion of "NO OBSTRUCTION."

The former special counsel declined to come to a conclusion on whether or not the president obstructed justice — citing DOJ policy not to indict a sitting president. His report does detail the president's attempts to muddy the investigation, including efforts to tamper with witnesses and fire the special counsel. Attorney General William Barr, after receiving Mueller's report, cleared Trump of obstruction of justice.

On Wednesday, pointing to the criminal statute, Mueller told Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., that an unsuccessful attempt to obstruct justice would still be a crime.

GOP rep says Trump 'cooperated fully' with Mueller's investigation. Did he?

This claim, made by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., is false.

"President Trump cooperated fully with the investigation, he knew he had done nothing wrong," Johnson said, wrapping up questioning for GOP members on the Judiciary Committee.

The president refused to sit for an interview with the special counsel's office, agreeing only to answer written questions about Russian interference and possible coordination with his presidential campaign. He refused to answer questions about obstruction of justice, notably, and took a number of actions intended to disrupt, control and limit the investigation, according to Mueller's report.

"The president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests," the report adds.

Did Mueller interview for the FBI director job?

Mueller was interrogated by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., about a conversation he had with the president the day before he was appointed special counsel: Was it a job interview? The president has repeatedly said that Mueller "interviewed" for the job and was turned down, claiming this created a conflict of interest to his appointment as special counsel.

But Mueller said it wasn't a job interview.

"My understanding is I was not applying for the job, I was asked to give my input on what it would take to do the job which triggered the interview you were talking about," Mueller told Steube. "I interviewed with the president, it was about the job, but it was not about me applying for the job."

And Mueller's claim here is backed up by Trump's own aides, including former White House adviser Steve Bannon, who told the special counsel's office that Mueller wasn't seeking a job for himself.

"Bannon recalled that the White House had invited Mueller to speak to the President to offer a perspective on the institution of the FBI. Bannon said that, although the White House thought about beseeching Mueller to become Director again, he did not come in looking for the job," the report reads, citing interviews with Bannon.


Did the FBI used the Steele dossier to spy on Carter Page?

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, complained about the warrant the FBI obtained in order to scrutinize former Trump campaign aide Carter Page on Wednesday, noting that the Steele dossier was "part of the reason they were able to get a warrant."

Jordan is correct. The FBI released a redacted copy of the warrant last year, showing that Christopher Steele's dossier was at least part of the law enforcement agency's interest in Page.

Steele is a former British spy who compiled an explosive report about the president's relationship with Russia.

The FBIdisclosed to the court that the information in the dossier was paid for by political opponents of candidate Trump, but said they viewed Steele as credible. Steele, released documents revealed, was a paid FBI informant for an unknown period of time.


Why did Rep. Gohmert ask Mueller about cellphones?

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, appeared to refer to a baseless conspiracy theory during the Mueller hearings on Wednesday, asking the former special counsel about the formatting of a pair of FBI cellphones and their text messages.

"Did you ever order anybody to investigate the deletion of all of their texts off of their government phones?" Gohmert asked, meaning messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the FBI lawyer and agency attorney who had an affair and were caught texting negatively about Trump on their work phones. "Did you order an investigation into the deletion and reformatting of their government phones?"

Mueller answered no, that he had not investigated the formatting of phones, pointing instead to the findings of a Justice Department internal watchdog that did probe the matter. The watchdog found that some 19,000 messages were initially missing from FBI records due to a technical error. Those messages were later recovered.

Trump himself has accused Mueller of deleting messages between the two.


Trump claims Mueller was 'highly conflicted.' Is that the case?

In a Wednesday morning tweetstorm, the president repeated his accusation that Mueller was "highly conflicted." But the Department of Justice and Trump's own aides found this claim to be baseless.

Ahead of Mueller's appointment as special counsel, DOJ ethics officials considered potential conflicts of interest — namely that Mueller had previously worked with a law firm that represented Trump affiliates who could be caught up in the investigation — and cleared him for service.

Mueller's report notes that Trump complained that Mueller had disputed certain fees related to his membership at a Trump golf course in Virginia in 2011, and had interviewed for the FBI director job shortly before his appointment as special counsel. But Trump's own White House aides — Reince Priebus, Stephen Bannon, and counsel Don McGahn — all told the special counsel's office that they had told the president these were not true conflicts of interest.

"The President's advisors pushed back on his assertion of conflicts, telling the President they did not count as true conflicts. Bannon recalled telling the President that the purported conflicts were 'ridiculous' and that none of them was real or could come close to justifying precluding Mueller from serving as Special Counsel," the report says.

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