Washington, D.C., ground to a standstill on Wednesday morning as former special counsel Robert Mueller testified before two congressional committees on Capitol Hill.
By 9:30 a.m. PT on Wednesday, words and phrases related to the hearings made up eight of the nine topics trending nationally on Twitter. Social media users and TV viewers reacted in real time to the biggest moments of the testimony — which was only the first of two.
Below, find some of the biggest moments:
1. Trump Wasn’t Exonerated
The first round of questioning the former special counsel faced came from House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Jerry Nadler, who wanted to know whether his report on the 2016 election totally exonerated Trump on obstruction of justice, as the president has claimed.
“Correct,” Mueller responded. “It is not what the report said.”
2. Trump Could Be Charged With Obstruction After He Leaves Office
“You believe that he committed, you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he leaves office?” Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado, asked after Mueller said that Justice Department guidelines prevented him from indicting President Trump of any crime while he was in office.
“Yes,” Mueller replied.
Of the 19 lawyers on Mueller’s team, half of them had a direct relationship political or personal with the opponent of who he was investigating.
They donated $12k to Clinton. That’s not even counting the $49k donated to other Democrats.
Watch my questions for Mueller: pic.twitter.com/QMrY0x6GEv
– Congressman Kelly Armstrong (@RepArmstrongND) July 24, 2019
5. “Collusion” vs. “Conspiracy”
Rep. Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican, got a trending moment early on when he asked about Mueller’s definitions of “collusion” and “conspiracy.”
And Mueller appeared to stumble on whether the two words are synonymous — which Mueller denied until Collins pointed out that his report noted that for regular people “collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy as that crime is set forth in the general federal conspiracy statute.”
But when Collins asked him Wednesday if they were colloquially equivalent, Mueller said, “No” — prompting an accusation that Mueller was contradicting his own report.
6. Russian Election Interference Was “Not a Hoax”
During the afternoon hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, Mueller insisted that Russian interference in the 2016 election was “not a hoax” — as at least one Republican lawmaker had claimed. “Absolutely, it was not a hoax,” he said. “The indictments we returned against the Russians, two different ones were substantial.”
He added, “We have underplayed to a certain extent that aspect of our investigation that has, and would have long-term damage to the United States that we need to move quickly to address.
Responding to another question, Mueller emphasized the scope of Russian’s efforts — and noted that other countries may be making similar attempts at interference. “It wasn’t a single attempt,” he said. “They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign.”
7. The Return of WikiLeaks
Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley read a selection of 2016 tweets from then-candidate Donald Trump declaring his love for WikiLeaks, then asked, “Do any of those quotes disturb you?”
Mueller responded, telling Quigley that calling it “problematic” would be “an understatement in terms of whether it displays, in terms of giving some, I don’t know, hope or boost to what is and should be illegal activity.”
– CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 24, 2019
8. “Unpatriotic” to Accept Foreign Help
During a back-and-forth with Rep. Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Mueller agreed it’s “unpatriotic” to accept foreign assistance during an election.
“From your testimony today, I gather that you believe knowingly accepting foreign assistance during a presidential campaign is an unethical thing to do,” Schiff said.
“And a crime, given certain circumstances,” Mueller said.
Schiff went on, “And to the degree that it undermines our democracy and our institutions, we can agree that it’s also unpatriotic.”
“True,” Mueller said.
9. The “New Normal” in American Politics
In an exchange with Rep. Peter Welch, the Vermont Democrat, Mueller expressed concern that future candidates to elective office might be more willing to accept help from foreign parties — or to fail to report their knowledge of foreign interference in elections.
“I hope this is not the new normal,” he said, “but I fear it is.”