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What Trump and members of Congress are saying about Mueller’s testimony

President Trump was at the White House for most of Robert Mueller’s testimony, tweeting reactions including a reference to the Russia investigation as a “ridiculous hoax.” House Democrats seemed somewhat muted after the hearings, while congressional Republicans believe Mueller’s appearance won’t affect public opinion significantly. Judy Woodruff talks to Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump spent most of today at the White House and was tweeting his reaction during the Mueller hearings.

    Late this afternoon, he spoke to reporters on the White House South lawn.

  • President Donald Trump:

    So, we had a very good day today, the Republican Party, our country.

    There was no defense of what Robert Mueller was trying to defend, in all fairness to Robert Mueller. Whether his performance was a bad one or a good one, I think everybody understands that. I think everybody understands what's going on.

    There was no defense for this ridiculous hoax, this witch-hunt that's been going on for a long time, pretty much front he time I came down the escalator with our first lady. And it's a disgrace, what happened. But I think today proved a lot to everybody.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Our Yamiche Alcindor was there when the president was speaking and has been tracking White House reaction all day.

    So, Yamiche, you did hear all what the president had to say. What are you taking away from the White House?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president, his personal lawyers and White House aides all agree that the president feels like he's in a better position today than he was yesterday.

    He sees this hearing as really doubling down and being proof of what he's been saying, which is this was all a witch-hunt and a waste of time. He said the Democrats were in a worse position today because they came away with nothing.

    Democrats, of course, take issue with that. They think that getting Robert Mueller on the record saying he didn't exonerate the president and that he also could be charged when he leaves office was a win for them.

    But the president overall was pretty confident that he thinks that this is going to help him win the 2020 election.

    I also put the question to the president directly. Robert Mueller said that generally the questions and the answers that you gave him were untrue. The president got very, very upset and said that the question was untruthful.

    When I pressed him some more, he said that campaign aides and White House aides hadn't lied to the president, hadn't lied to Robert Mueller.

    But Robert Mueller, of course, said the exact opposite. So this was really in a lot of ways a total repudiation of what the president was saying. But he's out there continuing to say, mostly falsely, that he was exonerated, and that this was a full defense of what he's been saying.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, you're addressing one of the questions I was going to ask you, in that what Robert Mueller said in answer to a number of different questions from different members of Congress was that he did find the president's answers not always credible. Not generally truthful was another question he answered.

    So you're saying the White House is simply pushing back on all of this.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The White House and the president personally, to me, are pushing back on the idea that Robert Mueller said that the president's answers, written answers were generally untruthful, and that campaign aides and White House aides lying impeded the Mueller investigation.

    The president is, I think, very upset with the idea that Robert Mueller on the record before millions of people essentially were saying that the people around him and himself were lying.

    The president really feels as though he — he has to now defend his character. He called Republicans today incredible warriors for him and said that his party really was coming to his defense, as everyone was really trying to attack him.

    But when you look at what Robert Mueller said, he really did push back on so many claims that President Trump has been making over the last two years. The president said this was a witch-hunt carried out by 12 Democrats. The president said that this was all a hoax and that there was no Russian interference.

    All of that, Robert Mueller said, is wrong and that wasn't true.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor, following it all from the White House, thank you, Yamiche.

    So, this evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reacted to the hearing. Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, she said the House is still not prepared to pursue an impeachment inquiry against the president.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    My position has always been whatever decision we made in that regard would have to be done with our strongest possible hand. And we still have some outstanding matters in the courts.

    It's about the Congress, the Constitution and the courts. And we are fighting the president in the courts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sorry about that, that end of that comment from the speaker.

    But our Lisa Desjardins, whom you see next to me, she was in the hearing room today. Lisa has been following the response on Capitol Hill.

    Lisa, in general, what are Democrats saying, first of all?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, Democrats say they feel that their members prepared and then that preparation really mattered, that they were able to focus Mr. Mueller in a way that they think helped.

    They also liked their mantra of, no one is above the law, of course, talking about the president at that point.

    Now, it's interesting, though, that there's a divide among Democrats when you speak to them privately over how Mr. Mueller did. Many of them say, listen, this is a huge report for him, 448 pages' long, he shouldn't be expected to know every detail of it.

    But others admitted to me frankly — these are Democrats involved in the investigation — that they felt that Mr. Mueller wasn't quite as sharp as they expected him to be.

    Now, the reaction in the caucus is interesting as well. They just had a Democratic-only meeting. And I'm told that it wasn't really especially lively. There were a lot of thanks to committee chairmen, but there didn't seem to be overall enthusiasm.

    The caucus is still sort of discussing what this moment means.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so we heard — Lisa, we just heard Speaker Pelosi say they are not ready to move ahead with impeachment. That suggests that they don't think what Mr. Mueller had to say today moved the ball down the field very much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I get that suggestion.

    I think that they are mulling it over right now. We know a couple of things are going to happen, talking to sources in both committees. The Judiciary Committee next is going to move to push forward subpoenas on Don McGahn, who, of course, his name came up a lot today because he is the witness who told Mueller that the president instructed him to fire Mr. Mueller.

    They want him to appear in public. He is saying he cannot, so they're going to court over that.

    The House Intelligence Committee, Judy, is planning to call more witnesses, including Rick Gates, in September, they are hoping. He's, of course, the former deputy campaign chairman to Donald Trump.

    And then finally, Judy, they're going to focus more, they say, on financial investigations in the Intelligence Committee, not just focus on the Mueller report.

    But I think you're right. Overall, this is a big question of impeachment, yes or no. I'm told behind closed doors tonight, Speaker Pelosi told her Democrats that, if they are now in favor of impeachment, because they feel that their district goes that way, that she will respect that.

    Essentially, Judy, she's sending them home for their August recess, which begins Friday, and saying talk to your members in your districts. We will see what happens when you come back.

    She still doesn't want to begin an impeachment inquiry. But August is going to be important.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Lisa — and you mentioned Don McGahn. Of course, he's the special — the former counsel, legal counsel to President Trump.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But what you're saying suggests Democrats are not dropping this, they are moving ahead, but they're picking and choosing how they're going to do that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    They see this as one huge step in a large series of parts of the investigation. This is something they absolutely wanted to do.

    But it's interesting. At the same time, Judy, Republicans feel very good about what happened today. They don't feel like they were able to really take down Mr. Mueller's credibility, which some of them wanted to do. They don't feel like they were successful at that.

    But they do think that the greater burden was on Democrats, and they have a point, that Democrats needed to move public opinion in their direction if they're going to force impeachment, which Speaker Pelosi has said. And today Republicans think that what happened, whether it confirms the parts of the report that Democrats think are important or not, they don't think, Republicans, that it moved the dial, that there were no electrifying moments that might have galvanized public opinion or thought.

    We will see what happens, but Republicans feel that this was a win for them and that Democrats didn't get what they wanted.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, thank you, Lisa.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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