Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) repeatedly refused to take Robert Mueller's conclusion that President Donald Trump didn't conspire with the Russians during the 2016 election on Wednesday, maintaining his claim that Trump was a Russian asset who could be blackmailed by Vladimir Putin.
The 2020 presidential candidate and cable news fixture was one of the leading Democratic voices in Congress pushing the collusion storyline over the past two years. MSNBC host Ari Melber played a montage of Swalwell's Russia claims and noted Swalwell appeared to affirmatively claim a "personal link" between Trump and Putin's Kremlin.
Over the course of the investigation, Swalwell called Trump a Russian agent, said collusion evidence was in "plain sight," and claimed Trump had both personally and through his campaign colluded with the Russians. In spite of Mueller's report not finding proof of conspiracy between Trump's campaign and the Russians in their election interference campaign, Swalwell told Fox News on April 19 that "this president in no way is cleared."
"Do you accept the findings in the Mueller report that do not support some of those claims?" Melber asked.
"I accept that I probably should have been out there a little bit earlier, because who knew how many links there were, there were 200 pages of links," Swalwell said. "I accept that prior congresses did not have an imagination to see a president or a campaign have so many [sic] concerning conduct and not write laws to prohibit it, but it didn't meet the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. But here's what we know. The Russians helped Donald Trump."
"So you're no longer maintaining that he is effectively a, quote, Russian asset," Melber said.
"No," Swalwell said. "I think he acts on Russia's behalf, and I challenge him to show me otherwise."
Melber countered President Barack Obama could have been accused of advocating on Cuba's behalf with his policy there, but he contrasted that with Swalwell's consistent claims of coordination between Trump and the Kremlin.
"You clearly in those quotes, though, were discussing it at the level of a financial link or a conspiratorial collaboration, which Mueller's evidence doesn't support," Melber said. "So I want to find out do you accept that?"
"There's evidence of collusion and coordination there. It doesn't go beyond a reasonable doubt, but that doesn't mean this is a good guy," Swalwell said.
Swalwell said if Trump was able to "be blackmailed by a porn star," a reference to Stormy Daniels and her lawsuit against Trump, "how do we know he's not going to be blackmailed by Vladimir Putin?" Swalwell has previously said he did not care about allegations that Trump orchestrated a payoff to hush up an affair Daniels said she had with Trump in 2006.
Mueller repeated his question again: Was Swalwell maintaining his asset theory, in spite of Mueller not documenting that explosive claim?
"I think he acts on Russia's behalf too many times, and he puts their interests ahead of our interests," Swalwell said. "He acts guilty, Ari!"
Swalwell listed off policies by Trump he considered positive to Russia, like trying to pull American troops out of Syria or being cagy about his one-on-one meetings with Putin. However, the administration has also pursued anti-Russia policies, such as opposing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany, arming Ukrainians fighting the Russians with anti-tank missiles, and boosting NATO's military readiness.