Robert Mueller doesn’t want to testify. The public statement he delivered late last month made that clear. “The report is my testimony,” he said. “I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
But the now-former special counsel’s report and statement weren’t enough for congressional Democrats, who are determined to turn over every rock they can as they continue to investigate the president. On Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and House Permanent Select Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) issued subpoenas for Mueller to appear before their committees. Mueller complied. He will testify in open session on July 17th.
“Americans have demanded to hear directly from the Special Counsel so they can understand what he and his team examined, uncovered, and determined about Russia’s attack on our democracy, the Trump campaign’s acceptance and use of that help, and President Trump and his associates’ obstruction of the investigation into that attack,” Nadler wrote.
I am pleased to announce that @HouseJudiciary and House Intel will have Special Counsel Robert Mueller testify in open session on July 17, pursuant to a subpoena issued this evening. https://t.co/wR0CEVqpJC
We look forward to having Mr. Mueller testify, as do all Americans. pic.twitter.com/UEKihMEYXI
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) June 26, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — who has been steadfast in her refusal to begin impeachment proceedings despite the apparent obstruction of justice detailed in Mueller’s report — welcomed the news. “We are pleased that the American people will hear directly from Special Counsel Mueller,” she said in a statement. “Our national security is being threatened and the American people deserve answers.”
But what, exactly, do Nadler, Schiff, and Pelosi expect Mueller to reveal that he hasn’t already laid out in the 400-page report, or in his statement explaining explicitly that he has nothing more to say? He’s not going to blurt out that he thinks Trump obstructed justice or should be impeached, and will likely refer most questioners to his report. “Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report,” Mueller said in his statement last month. “It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself.”
The hearing could, however, give another shot of life to the movement to impeach Trump. As the president continues to stonewall attempts at oversight, more and more Democrats have endorsed beginning an inquiry — as of this week, close to 80 in the House have publicly called for impeachment, including one Republican, Rep. Justin Amash. But Pelosi has shown little give in the face of pressure from both her fellow lawmakers and Democratic voters, two-thirds of which favor an inquiry, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released last week.
As he did both in the report and in his public statement, Mueller is likely to explain that his findings are his findings, and that it’s up to Congress to determine how to handle this information. If Democrats think what he laid out in the report satisfies the “high crimes and misdemeanors” stipulation of the Constitution’s impeachment provision (which can be true even if it doesn’t constitute criminal obstruction of justice), then they are duty-bound to impeach the president. If they don’t, then they should continue to investigate. It’s unclear what effect forcing Mueller to explain this again will have. It could help galvanize more support for impeachment among congressional Democrats; or, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) argued, it could “blow up in their face.”
Graham isn’t the only member of the Trump cohort who doesn’t seem worried. The president, along with Attorney General William Barr, has been driving home the “total exoneration” narrative for going on four months now, and it’s unlikely anything Mueller says before Congress next month will be substantial enough to undercut the president’s incessant claims that the report showed no collusion with Russia and no obstruction of justice. “Bob Mueller said his testimony was his report,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow told NBC News. “We expect that his testimony will be his report.” Rudy Giuliani delivered a similar message when informed of the news. “Who cares?” he said.
The president responded in typical fashion after the news was announced Tuesday night. “Presidential Harassment!” he tweeted.