Congressional Republicans accused former Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday of operating under a double standard in his Russia investigation, alleging during a heated Hill hearing that Mueller threw the book at Trump associates while ignoring wrongdoing by others.
Republicans, for years, have attempted to draw a stark distinction between how the FBI and Mueller pursued allegations against President Trump and his campaign during the 2016 presidential election and how they reviewed alleged misconduct by prominent Democratic figures and those associated with them.
On Wednesday, during the first round of Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, GOP lawmakers repeatedly confronted the former special counsel with that accusation — with lines of questioning meant to illustrate a double standard.
At one point, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., asked if he can say whether the controversial anti-Trump dossier “was not part of Russia’s disinformation campaign.”
“No – as I said in my opening statement, I-uh, I, that part of the … building of the case predated me by at least 10 months,” Mueller replied.
Gaetz noted such reasoning did not stop prosecutors from going after Trump’s former campaign chairman. “Paul Manafort’s alleged crimes regarding tax evasion predated you but you didn’t have a problem charging him,” he said.
Gaetz and Mueller went back-and-forth over the anti-Trump dossier, which was authored and compiled by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. The dossier was created on behalf of Fusion GPS—the firm that was hired to conduct opposition research funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign through law firm Perkins Coie. The dossier “formed an essential part” of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants approved to surveil then-Trump campaign associate Carter Page, according to a House GOP memo alleging government surveillance abuse during 2016.
Gaetz complained Wednesday that concerns about Fusion and Steele were largely not in the report, and figures associated with them were not charged.
“When people associated with Trump lie, you throw the book at them. When Christopher Steele [lies], nothing,” he said.