Mueller has said that if he is required by subpoena to give evidence to Congress, that he will not be able to provide information beyond what is in his report.

He also seems to imply that he knows rather more than has been included in the report.

And if he does testify, presumably it will be under oath. So will he be required to tell, not only "the truth", but "the WHOLE truth"?

  • 4
    There is a big difference between lying and not telling everything, even under oath.
    – Max
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 22:41
  • 1
    @Max In the US, the testimonial oath is "Do you promise to tell the truth, the WHOLE truth, and nothing but the truth?"
    – Brythan
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 23:24
  • 2
    "He seems to imply...." What evidence is present that has led you to conclude thus?
    – BobE
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 1:31
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    @Brythan Yes. I did know that. It is almost identical in Britain, except that instead of being asked the question, you have to repeat the words "I swear by almighty God that the evidence I shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". There are modifications for non-Christian denominations and non-believers.
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 9:43
  • 1
    @BobE Wki says:... He [Mueller] stressed that the central conclusion of his investigation was "that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American." He also stated: "If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime." All that suggests to me that Mueller knows more than is in the redacted report.
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 10:12

1 Answer 1


Probably not

The wording of the oath is seemingly clear: a witness swears to "tell the truth," and thus not lie; "the whole truth," and thus not omit pertinent information; and "nothing but the truth," and thus not obscure their true statement. If Mueller is to comply with the oath he will have to swear, he would seemingly have to provide all relevant information.

However! The real issue is not the wording of the oath, but whether Mueller can legally be compelled not to omit any information. In other words, could he be found guilty of perjury under federal law if he didn't tell the whole truth?

The precedent of Bronston v. United States (1973) suggests that he could not, and that omitting information (as opposed to outright lying) is not illegal. In this case, a witness omitted relevant information, and in fact directly answered a question with information that did not answer the question.The judge ruled that this was not perjury. Per Wikipedia, quoting the ruling, a witness is not susceptible to prosecution for evasion; rather, it is the lawyer's job to prevent this:

"If a witness evades, it is the lawyer's responsibility to recognize the evasion and to bring the witness back to the mark, to flush out the whole truth with the tools of adversary examination."

And the motives for evasion are irrelevant:

"To hold otherwise would be to inject a new and confusing element into the adversary testimonial system we know. Witnesses would be unsure of the extent of their responsibility for the misunderstandings and inadequacies of examiners, and might well fear having that responsibility tested by a jury under the vague rubric of "intent to mislead" or "perjury by implication."

The article also notes that the case has not been overturned or rendered inapplicable:

The decision has been cited in many cases since then and has become the controlling legal standard of perjury in federal jurisprudence. It was invoked during Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings in 1998 as a defense to charges of perjury against him.

It has long been criticized for the loophole it creates in the perjury statutes as essentially allowing a witness to lie without consequences. Nevertheless, later Courts have refused to overrule or otherwise limit it despite some moves in that direction by lower courts.

As such, Mueller could omit whatever information he chose, and, as long as he did not lie outright, would not be subject to the threat of prosecution.

If he outright refused to answer a question, however, it is possible that he could be found in contempt of Congress and subjected to relatively light penalties. If his questioners are careful, it's possible that he could be put in a situation where he must either answer truthfully, lie (and thus commit perjury) or outright not answer and possibly held in contempt. However, if Congress doesn't know what to ask, Mueller could certainly legally omit relevant information.

Further, there's also the political question of how likely Congress actually would be to pursue a contempt charge or perjury case against Mueller, in the off chance that they could. Mueller is popular among Democrats, and Trump would surely welcome any charges against him, which would probably convince many voters that Trump had done nothing wrong—after all, if even the Democrats think Mueller's up to no good, people would think, there must be something to it—and bolster his approval ratings, which were damaged by the release of the report. I can't see this being a route the Democratic-controlled House would like to pursue, even if Mueller outright lied.

  • Could he also perhaps claim a "public interest" defence - that to reveal everything would not be in the public interest? That is one that sometimes gets used in the UK - though whether it could in this type of instance I have no idea.
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 9:50
  • IMO, "However, if Congress doesn't know what to ask" this is the main point of the answer in regards to the OP.
    – Max
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 11:09
  • Plus, often, people try to get to testify not under oath when they can, claiming they are trying to avoid an unfair "perjury trap." ..... as if not lying as much as possible wouldn't resolve that issue. Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 19:06

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