President Donald Trump declared it to be a "very good day" shortly after former special counsel Robert Mueller finished answering questions for more than six hours before Congress on Wednesday about whether he had obstructed justice.
"There was no defense for this ridiculous hoax," Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a GOP campaign fundraiser in West Virginia. "So, this was a very big day for our country, this was a very big day for the Republican Party. And you can say it was a great day for me but I don't even like to say that," Trump said.
He said Mueller did a "horrible job" in his testimony and how he handled the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government and individuals tied to the Kremlin, but offered a backhanded defense of Mueller by arguing he had no material to work with.
"Robert Mueller did a horrible job today and with respect to the investigation. But in all fairness the Robert Mueller, he had nothing to work with, you know, you can be a builder, but if they don't give you the right materials, they're not going to build a very good building. Robert Mueller had no material," Trump said.
The president was defensive when asked about Mueller, who said on Capitol Hill that he had not exonerated him as Trump had often claimed.
"So there is no such a thing. He didn't have the right to exonerate. And you know it is very interesting, people mention exoneration, that was something where he totally folded. Because he never had the right to exonerate," Trump said.
He called it a "devastating" day for Democrats. "They are devastated, the Democrats lost so big today."
"The Democrats had nothing and now they have less than nothing," he said. "They should be ashamed of themselves."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi , in a news conference held after Trump left the White House, called Mueller's testimony a "historic day" for the American people in understanding the significance of his investigation and whether the president obstructed justice. She added that it crossed "a threshold in terms of public awareness of what happened."
The president also echoed complaints from Republicans that the Democrats, by allowing Mueller's longtime aide Aaron Zebley to offer counsel, were making a last-minute move to change the rules and help the witness. But Mueller's request was not out of the ordinary -- witnesses are allowed to have counsel during House hearings.
At the time of the hearings, neither the president nor Vice President Mike Pence had anything on their public schedules. The White House would not comment on the president's private plans, but Trump admitted he might watch "a little" of the hearing after saying last week he had no plans to tune in.
"No, I'm not going to be watching," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office before a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday. "Probably, maybe I'll see a little bit of it. I'm not going to be watching Mueller because you can't take all those bites out of the apple."
The president often watches and comments on morning television during "executive time" in the White House residence. He is also keenly aware of the power of television and expressed his annoyance that Mueller would be allowed to have time in the national spotlight.
To counter the hearing, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee said Republicans were working with the Trump campaign on sharing research and pushing legal experts and committee members to be interviewed on TV.
The president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, appeared on Fox News before the hearing started, and stuck to Trump's typical message: "There was no collusion. He extraordinarily couldn't reach a decision on obstruction."