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After months of “Will he or won’t he?” House Democrats finally seem to have roped former special counsel Robert Mueller into providing testimony before Congress.
However, now the question becomes, “What will Democrats get?” And the answer may not be immediately clear-cut.
Mueller last month made a rare public appearance in which he made clear that he wanted let his report speak for itself rather than testify further about the two-year investigation he led into Donald Trump. That changed once House Democrats approved a subpoena compelling Mueller’s testimony. A former FBI director, Mueller made clear that he would not defy a lawful subpoena.
But just what will Democrats get for their trouble? Since Mueller made clear that he intends to stay within the “four corners” of his report–a redacted version of which is public–just what do Democrats stand to gain from his scheduled July 17 appearance, when he will meet with both the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees?
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn) readily admits not expecting to learn “a whole lot new.” But relatively few Americans have actually read the 400-plus-page Mueller Report, he added. Congressional testimony will serve to refocus Americans on this issue, he said.
“I believe Bob Mueller, having watched him and known him for a long time, when he says that his testimony is his report. You should not expect, and nobody should expect that Bob Mueller is going to make any news in either of the testimonies he gives to the Congress,” said Himes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “Now, so you might ask, ‘Okay, what’s the point?’ The reality is that very, very few Americans have read the report. Very few Americans are familiar with the conclusions of the report, in particular Part Two of the report where Bob Mueller elaborates on 10 possible examples of obstruction of justice.
“I expect that he will be willing to discuss, using the words of the report, those examples, but of course my colleagues are going to spend a day trying to get him to say things outside of the report. I think he’s unlikely to do that,” he added.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif) readily acknowledged that he and his colleagues will ask Mueller questions beyond the contents of his report.
“Well, that is certainly what we are going to ask of him. We’re going to be asking him questions, yes, that go what’s in the report, but we’re going to be asking questions that are outside of the report,” Schiff said. “The attorney general has made it clear that he feels completely free to discuss matters not in the report, in fact the attorney general felt free to mischaracterize the report.
“And there is no law or prescription against Bob Mueller talking about other avenues of the investigation they pursued or didn’t pursue or where it led,” Schiff added. “So we’re going to have a lot of questions we’re going to ask him to answer and we’re going to expect to get answers.”
Former FBI assistant director Andrew McCabe, who counted Mueller as a colleague from their years together at the FBI, said he has high expectations for Mueller’s testimony.
“Well, Nicolle, I think it’ll be extraordinary,” McCabe said in an on-air interview with MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace. “I think you only have to look back as far as the very limited 9-minute statement that Director Mueller gave just a few weeks ago, completely changed the conversation around the report, around the investigative findings and the impact that that report has had on people in Congress and I think on the general public.
“So if you extrapolate out from that very brief statement to think about Director Mueller sitting behind the witness stand answering questions from both sides, I do agree … that he’ll likely stay within the four corners of his report, but there is incredible ground to cover there and I think the revelations that many, many people have not heard before, have not read in the report, so I think you can’t underestimate the significance of the director’s upcoming testimony.”
One group not pleased by Mueller’s impending testimony is congressional Republicans, if Rep. Mark Meadows’ reaction is any indication.
The North Carolina Republican threatened fireworks for the day of Mueller’s testimony.
“Listen, it is not a good day for America but Bob Mueller better be prepared,” he said in an appearance on Fox News.