The Latest: White House calls hearing embarrassment for Dems

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on former special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony on the Russia probe.

1 p.m.

The White House is calling former special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony “an epic embarrassment for the Democrats.”

Press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement saying, “The last three hours have been an epic embarrassment for the Democrats. Expect more of the same in the second half.”

Mueller stated Wednesday that his investigation did not “exonerate” Trump. Mueller also faced repeated questions from Republicans seeking to undermine his credibility.

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12:55 p.m.

The House intelligence committee chairman says the report by the office of former special counsel Robert Mueller is “methodical and devastating.”

Adam Schiff’s prepared remarks come at the start of a second congressional hearing Wednesday where Mueller is testifying about his investigation into Russian election interference and obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Mueller spent more than three hours testifying before the House Judiciary Committee earlier Wednesday.

Schiff, a Democrat from California, says the report also tells the story of “disloyalty to country, about greed and about lies.”

Mueller is not expected go to beyond the report during questioning. In the earlier hearing, he replied to questions with short phrases, often saying he will refer to the report.

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12:10 p.m.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller is pushing back on questions from Republicans about his prosecutors’ connections to Hillary Clinton, saying political affiliations played no part in his hiring decisions.

North Dakota Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong questioned Mueller about one of his prosecutors attending Clinton’s election night party, and another who represented Clinton in a lawsuit.

Mueller strongly defended his team. He said he found some of the best prosecutors in the country to work for him.

The former FBI director said in 25 years in law enforcement, he has never asked anyone who worked for him about their political affiliation. Mueller said he only cares about the “capability of the individual to do the job and do the job with integrity.”

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11:35 a.m.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller told the House judiciary and intelligence committees that he would decline to quote from his report on the Trump-Russia investigation during his testimony before both panels on Wednesday.

Mueller’s refusal to read his own words has proved somewhat challenging for Democrats, who called him in with the idea that he could explain his findings to the American people.

Mueller has replied to questions with short phrases, often saying he will refer to the report.

So Democrats are filling in the gaps by reading from the report themselves, methodically going through episodes that Mueller reviewed for obstruction of justice. The report said Trump couldn’t be exonerated on that point. It also said investigators did not find sufficient evidence to establish charges of criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

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11:15 a.m.

Robert Mueller is pushing back against Republican attacks with a forceful defense of his report on the Trump-Russia investigation.

Mueller testified Wednesday in Congress that he doesn’t think the lawmakers have reviewed “a report that is a thorough, as fair, as consistent as the report that we have in front of us.”

The report says investigators could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice. It also said they did not find sufficient evidence to establish charges of criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Mueller has been a reluctant witness before the House Judiciary Committee, delivering single-word answers to many questions. But in response to Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California, he gave a full-sentence defense of his 448-page report.

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11 a.m.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller is affirming that a president can be charged with crimes after leaving office.

He says Justice Department guidelines prevented him from considering charges against President Donald Trump while he is in office.

Because of the longtime Justice Department guidance that a sitting president cannot be indicted, Mueller says “one of the tools a prosecutor would use is not there.”

Mueller has said his investigators could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice. His report said they did not find sufficient evidence to establish charges of criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

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10:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump’s sons and advisers are weighing in on former special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony with quips on Twitter targeting Democrats.

Donald Trump Jr. is calling the hearing a “disaster” for Democrats. He says Mueller claims he can’t understand the Republicans’ questions, but totally gets the ones from Democrats.

Eric Trump says GOP Rep. Jim Jordan’s comments at the hearing were “spot on.” Jordan says Democrats should be investigating what he says are “false accusations” that started the Russia probe.

Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says the hearing shows the Russia probe was run by Democrats wanting to destroy Trump.

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway tweeted three words: “drop the mic.”

That’s a phrase people say after they think they’ve gotten the upper hand on something.

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9:55 a.m.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller is disputing President Donald Trump’s claim that Mueller was rebuffed in a bid to fill the post of FBI director.

Facing questions from congressional lawmakers, Mueller said he spoke with Trump about the FBI job before he was named as special counsel, but “not as a candidate.”

Then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has said that while the White House invited Mueller to speak to the president about the FBI and thought about asking him to become director again, Mueller did not come in looking for a job.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that there are “numerous witnesses,” including Vice President Mike Pence, who could say that Mueller applied and interviewed for the job and was “turned down” for it.

Pence spokesperson Alyssa Farah told the Associated Press that the vice president “was present in the Oval Office when Robert Mueller interviewed for the job of FBI Director in May of 2017.”

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9:20 a.m.

The former special counsel was asked Wednesday if his investigation found the Russian government perceived a benefit if one of the candidates won.

“Yes,” he said.

And which candidate would that be? asked Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat.

“It would be Trump,” Mueller said.

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