Quizzing Mueller Gives Democrats a Fresh Chance to Hit at Trump

July 22, 2019by Billy House and Chris Strohm
Special counsel Robert Mueller makes a statement about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election at the Justice Department on May 29, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Mueller's planned testimony to Congress could be delayed a week. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

With Donald Trump’s impeachment as the prize that some Democrats covet, and others fear, Robert Mueller will finally sit down on Wednesday for five hours of questioning before two House committees.

The reluctant witness won’t make it easy. So Democrats on the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees have been strategizing over how to draw out the former special counsel, who has said he has no intention of going beyond the findings in the 448-page report he completed in March.

Intelligence panel Democrats have even conducted mock hearings, with a staff member playing the taciturn former FBI director and lawmakers practicing how to press him for details in the few minutes each will get, while restraining the urge to deliver lectures.

“You will find little or no editorializing or speechifying by members — I hope,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Judiciary Committee Democrat from Maryland who predicted “visual aids” will be provided for a national audience watching the testimony on live television.

Mueller’s appearance may be a make-or-break moment for House Democrats to deliver on their promises to investigate Trump and those around him. Their efforts have been frustrated at every turn so far by the White House’s refusal to turn over documents or allow testimony by past and current Trump aides and advisers.

Their ultimate goal is also in question. Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York said this month that “articles of impeachment are under consideration” as part of the committee’s investigation. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has remained firm in her conviction that impeachment by the House would be futile — and politically damaging — unless dramatic new evidence emerges that would lead to the president’s removal from office by the Republican-controlled Senate.

“Let’s listen. Let’s see where the facts take us,” she said last week. Suggesting the Mueller testimony risks turning into a political circus, Pelosi added, “And let us have this be as dignified as our Constitution would require.”

In a division of labor, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will focus during their panel’s three-hour hearing Wednesday morning on Mueller’s finding that he couldn’t “exonerate” Trump on obstructing justice and the special counsel’s seeming hint that Congress ultimately has the constitutional power to make that determination.

According to an official familiar with their plans, Judiciary Democrats will explore specific allegations cited in Mueller’s report — including that Trump ordered then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to have Mueller removed and then to lie about it, that the president ordered former campaign aide Corey Lewandowski to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the Russia inquiry to concerns about future elections and that Trump sought to interfere with cooperation by witnesses Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.

Raskin said he might ask Mueller “why he felt he needed to write letters to protest” Attorney General William Barr’s “misstatement of the contents of the report.”

For the Intelligence panel’s two-hour session on Wednesday afternoon, Democrats plan to concentrate on Mueller’s account of contacts between Russians and people involved in Trump’s 2016 campaign even though the special counsel said he didn’t find sufficient evidence that there was a conspiracy to participate in the Russian effort to help Trump win the presidency.

House Republicans will get almost half the five hours of testimony, and they’ve indicated that they will play it by ear as to whether to treat Mueller as a friendly witness or an adversary, depending on how narrowly he hews to the specifics of his report.

Some Republican lawmakers have joined in the president’s call to investigate whether the Russia inquiry was tainted early on by anti-Trump bias. Others have endorsed Trump’s dismissal of the continued Democratic inquiries as a “waste of time.”

But Democrats said even a just-the-facts recitation by Mueller will bring alive the findings of a report so thick that few Americans — including members of Congress — have really read it. Anti-Trump celebrities have even staged dramatic readings of the report in the effort to focus attention on it.

“Most people don’t know what’s in his report,” said Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, a Democrat on the Intelligence Committee who favors opening an impeachment inquiry. He said Mueller testifying firsthand could “raise a few eyebrows.”


©2019 Bloomberg News

Visit Bloomberg News at www.bloomberg.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

In The News

States Wary of Trump’s Move for Them to Kick in on Federal Aid
States Wary of Trump’s Move for Them to Kick in on Federal Aid

A day after President Donald Trump took executive action to offer $400 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits, including 25% he said should be kicked in from state coffers, governors are pushing back. The leaders of states including New York and Michigan said Trump’s plan ignores... Read More

US to Crack Down on Foreign Election Meddling, Trump Aide Says
2020 Elections
US to Crack Down on Foreign Election Meddling, Trump Aide Says

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien vowed to protect the 2020 U.S. election from foreign interference, whether they back President Donald Trump or challenger Joe Biden, saying any country that interferes risks “severe consequences.” “Whether it’s China or Russia or Iran, we’re not going to put up... Read More

Trump Aides Struggle to Defend His Pandemic Relief Orders as US Cases Reach 5 million
Trump Aides Struggle to Defend His Pandemic Relief Orders as US Cases Reach 5 million

WASHINGTON — As the United States surpassed 5 million confirmed coronavirus cases, President Trump’s senior aides on Sunday defended his handling of intertwined economic and public health crises, declaring that Democrats would bear the blame for millions of Americans’ financial distress if lawmakers challenged Trump’s controversial... Read More

Puerto Rico to Partially Redo Botched Gubernatorial Primary
Puerto Rico to Partially Redo Botched Gubernatorial Primary

Puerto Rico will partially redo a key gubernatorial primary election next Sunday after ballots failed to arrive at some polling centers in a timely manner. Gov. Wanda Vazquez, who is facing a challenge from within her New Progressive Party, said no results would be released until... Read More

Blast in Lebanon’s Port Capped Deadly Game of Pass the Buck
Foreign Affairs
Blast in Lebanon’s Port Capped Deadly Game of Pass the Buck

The nearly 3,000 tons of highly flammable ammonium nitrate that caused last week’s disastrous explosion in Lebanon didn’t languish forgotten in the years after an alarm was first raised. A warning was sent to the Public Works Ministry the very day the Port of Beirut blew... Read More

Court Ruling Denies Insurance For Restaurants Hit by Pandemic
Court Ruling Denies Insurance For Restaurants Hit by Pandemic
August 10, 2020
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON - A District of Columbia judge’s ruling this week is the latest court judgment that absolves insurers from obligations to cover the losses of businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. A group of restaurants sued their insurer after the company declined to reimburse them under their... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top