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Trump's impeachment appears no more likely after Mueller's testimony

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They did not get impeachment boost from ex-special counsel's testimony

WASHINGTON : Former special counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited congressional testimony did little to add momentum to any Democratic impeachment ambitions, and President Donald Trump heartily declared victory.

In seven hours of congressional testimony, Mr Mueller accused Mr Trump of not always being truthful, called his support for the 2016 release of stolen Democratic e-mails "problematic" and said Russia would again try to interfere in the 2020 US Election.

"They are doing it while we sit here. And they expect to do it in our next election," Mr Mueller told lawmakers in back-to-back hearings on his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 US Election to boost Mr Trump's candidacy.

Despite Mr Mueller's assertion that Mr Trump could be indicted after leaving office, the President was triumphant after the former FBI director's appearances before the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

"This was a very big day for the Republican Party. And you could say this was a great day for me, but I don't even like to say that," Mr Trump said, after Mr Mueller's lengthy and at times halting testimony during which he sometimes could not hear questions and had to correct at least one answer.

During a day of high-stakes political theatre, Mr Mueller, 74, answered questions publicly for the first time on his investigation, with Democrats and Republicans taking familiar positions at a time of deep US partisan divisions.

The marathon televised hearings apparently left Democrats who control the House no closer to launching the impeachment process to try to remove the President even as he seeks re-election in 2020.

Mr Mueller, for his part, refused to discuss the "impeachment issue".

"The Democrats had nothing," Mr Trump told reporters outside the White House as he was leaving on a trip to West Virginia. "And now they have less than nothing. They are going to lose the 2020 election very big, including congressional seats, because of the path that they choose."

Democrats said they would go to court this week to enforce a subpoena of former White House counsel Don McGahn and to ask for grand jury material related to Mr Mueller's probe.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave no sign she was speeding up her step-by-step approach to considering impeachment, saying: "We want to have the strongest possible case, to make a decision as to what path we will go down."

Mr Mueller spent 22 months investigating what he concluded was Russian interference in a "sweeping and systematic fashion" in the 2016 US Election to help Mr Trump, as well as the President's actions to impede the inquiry.

Mr Mueller defended the inquiry's integrity under repeated attacks by Mr Trump's conservative Republican allies, whom the President lauded as "incredible warriors".

Democrats who wanted Mr Mueller to bolster their case for impeachment or provide game-changing testimony about the President, and Republicans who wanted to show that the investigation was a politically motivated hit job on Mr Trump engineered by his enemies, may have come away frustrated.

Mr Mueller, a reluctant witness who appeared only after being subpoenaed, often gave terse responses like "I can't speak to that", "I am not going to get into that", and "It is beyond my purview". - REUTERS