Dems Mull Subpoena After Mueller Refuses To Testify Publicly Before Congress
Update (2100ET): President Trump has decided to chime in on the Democrats’ move to force Mueller to testify:
After spending 40 Million Dollars, reviewing 1.4 million pages of documents, & interviewing 500 people with the total support of the White House, the Mueller Report was a BIG DISAPPOINTMENT to the Democrats, so they want a DO OVER. It doesn’t work that way-so bad for our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 22, 2019
The Democrats are on a fishing expedition, wanting to interview the same people, and see the same things, as we just went through for two years with Robert Mueller and the 18 Angry Dems. Never happened to a president before. Never even happened to President Obama!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 22, 2019
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Update (2030ET): Angry Democratic Congress members have turned up their rhetoric amplifier to ’11’ this evening, suggesting that special counsel Mueller may be subpoenaed to compel him to testify (publicly, of course, because – apparently – none of this is worth doing unless the American public gets to see the farce).
“I think he will have to be subpoenaed,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told The Hill.
“He’s critical. He basically made the case for obstruction of justice and we need to hear from him,” she said.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has repeatedly said the committee would subpoena Mueller if necessary but that he hopes it wouldn’t come to that.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said when asked whether Mueller should be subpoenaed if he declines to testify publicly.
“It’s so important for the American public.”
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), a Judiciary member, declined to say whether he supported subpoenaing Mueller and added that he’s open to hearing arguments for Mueller to testify privately.
“If he can demonstrate some compelling reasons why he should be allowed to testify in private, I think we would have to consider that. And I would certainly like to hear – if that is the case – what sort of justification he’d give for wanting to testify in closed door hearings as opposed to open to the public,” Johnson told The Hill.
However, as The Hill reports, the move by the Democrats could be viewed as divisive, has the potential to generate negative headlines and is a step most would like to avoid.
Furthermore, as The Hill notes, if Mueller testifies, it could backfire on the Democrats as some Republicans are expected to question Mueller on the origins of the Russia counterintelligence investigation, which they allege was started by agents biased against Trump.
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With most Congressional Democrats still stunned from the anticlimatic publication of Mueller’s “Russiagate” report, which found that Trump did not collude with Russia, many have been desperate to hear Mueller’s side of the story perhaps in hopes that he will unveil some smoking gun in public (something he failed to do in his report) while the others have quietly turned on Mueller, asking why after a two year probe, he failed to put Trump behind bars.
And now, after the latest development in the never-ending Russia “witch hunt” to paraphrase the president, it won’t be long before virtually all Democrats are convinced that Mueller himself must also a Putin plant.
According to Bloomberg, which cites three people familiar with the special counsel’s position, Robert Mueller has balked at testifying publicly before Congress, pushing instead for a closed-door appearance in negotiations with House Democrats.
Why? Because Mueller, who was the center of a media and political circus for no less than two years has told the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee that – get this – he doesn’t want to be dragged into a political fight and that he’s hesitant to publicly discuss his final report. Among the options Mueller has raised is making a public statement before the committee questions him in private, the people said.
But why if he has nothing to hide, and if all the results of his multi-million probe were disclosed in his report?
As a reminder, the NYT and WaPo recently sparked more Russiagate drama, when they reported that Mueller had written AG William Barr to complain that he’s given summaries of the report’s findings that “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of his team’s work. A more detailed read of the report also revealed that Mueller did not actually have complaints about Barr’s representation of his lengthy report but was instead bashing the media – such as the NYT and WaPo.
As the WaPo reported earlier, Mueller III and House Democrats “have been unable to reach an agreement on how much of the special counsel’s expected congressional testimony would be public, and how much would take place in private, according to people familiar with the matter.”
The special counsel’s office, along with senior Justice Department officials, has been quietly negotiating with the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), has been eager to have Mueller testify as soon as possible.
Who is driving the dispute is a source of debate. Two people familiar with the matter said the Justice Department is deferring to Mueller, who would like for any discussions beyond the public contents of his report to be conducted in private. But another person said it is primarily the department, rather than Mueller himself, resisting a nationally televised hearing.
Needless to say, House Democrats – and Russiagate obsessed conspiracy theorists everywhere – want to press Mueller publicly about a host of issues, including whether he thought President Trump could or should be charged with obstruction if he were not the president, and whether Mueller agreed with Attorney General William P. Barr’s handling of the investigation’s findings.
With hundreds of former prosecutors – mostly Democrats – recently opining that Trump would have been charged with obstruction, based on the case Mueller detailed, Democrats are hoping that Mueller might say as much himself if pressed to testify. That, however, is proving problematic: one possibility, per the WaPo is that if Mueller felt a private allegation was unfair, “it seems unlikely he would be willing to publicly accuse the president of a crime at a congressional hearing.” That would only make Democrats even more livid with rage.
So far House Democrats have been unable to get any current government officials to publicly testify about Mueller’s findings, and the White House asserted executive privilege to fight a subpoena for the unredacted report and the underlying evidence.
And yet, the DOJ has repeatedly said that the assertion of executive privilege doesn’t prevent Mueller from testifying. While Trump has offered differing opinions on whether Mueller should testify, Barr has said he had no objections.
In other words, it is now Mueller himself that will now be blamed for his suspicious lack of willingness to cooperate and testify before the American public. Surely he must be hiding something, surely he must be a Russian agent, etc.