Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify before the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees on Wednesday. Outside of the brief public statement he delivered in May, it will be the first time Mueller has appeared publicly since taking the helm of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia, back in the spring of 2017. Though it’s unlikely Mueller will reveal any new information while sitting before Congress, the hearings could be a boon to Democrats seeking to raise awareness of the crimes they believe the president has committed. At the same time, the appearance could backfire if House Republicans are able to effectively muddy the waters regarding the investigation’s propriety.
Republicans will also look to drive home the fact that though the probe concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign willingly accepted this help, particularly in regards to WikiLeaks, Mueller did not find enough to support a criminal conspiracy charge. But Mueller also detailed several instances in which Trump potentially obstructed justice, noting he was not exonerating the president. He clarified this crucial point during his statement May. “If we had confidence the president didn’t commit a crime, we would have said so,” he said.
In calling Mueller to testify, House Democrats will look to get the former special counsel to elaborate on both of these issues, and explain his reasoning for handling them the way he did. His testimony, Democrats hope, will offer Americans a new, concise perspective through which to view a report they feel has not been given the attention it deserves, while at the same time adding ballast to ongoing congressional investigations into the president.
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Here’s everything you need to know:
When is Mueller’s testimony?
Mueller’s testimony was originally scheduled for July 17th, but earlier this month the former special counsel reached a deal with House Democrats for his appearance to be delayed a week, to Wednesday, July 24th. As part of the deal, Mueller agreed to field question from the Judiciary Committee for an additional hour. As it stands Monday morning, Mueller will appear before the Intelligence Committee for two hours, and the Judiciary Committee for three hours. His appearance before the Judiciary Committee will begin at 8:30 a.m. ET. He will appear before the Intelligence Committee beginning at 12:00 p.m. ET.
The Intelligence Committee’s questioning will focus on Volume I of the Mueller report, which covered Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the Judiciary Committee’s questioning will focus on Volume II, which covered instances of potential obstruction of justice on the part of President Trump. On Sunday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the report “presents very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors,” the Constitution’s prerequisite for impeachment.
How to watch Mueller’s testimony
C-SPAN will carry a live stream of Mueller’s testimony before Congress.
What to expect from Mueller’s testimony
Don’t expect Mueller to drop any bombshells during his testimony on Wednesday. In his brief public statement on the contents of his report, the former special counsel made clear that he has nothing more to say. “The report is my testimony,” he said. “I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
Democrats issued subpoenas for Mueller to appear before Congress anyway. “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 in June after Mueller’s testimony was confirmed.
There’s probably nothing House Democrats can ask of the notoriously by-the-book former special counsel that would lead him to divulge more than he already has. Mueller will likely to respond to most questions by referring the committee to the report. Republicans are expected to pry into what they believe to be improprieties in how the investigation was conducted, but they’re not likely to make much headway, either. Again, Mueller is as by-the-book as they come, and as was indicated by the report’s careful handling of the investigation’s findings, he is determined to avoid coming across as political.
As far as Democrats are concerned, this is fine. Though it did not find criminal conspiracy, the Mueller report detailed Russia’s “sweeping and systemic” efforts to interfere in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump, and listed several damning instances in which the president appeared to obstruct justice. At the very least, Mueller’s appearance will should shine light on Trump’s potential crimes, giving Democrats an opportunity to rewrite the narrative surrounding the report to focus on obstruction of justice rather than its lack of a conspiracy charge. Whether they’ll actually be able to do so remains to be seen.
Regardless, the hearings are expected to reinvigorate the growing movement to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump. Close to 90 House Democrats (and one Independent) have publicly called for the president’s impeachment, and it stands to reason that some of those still on the fence will take the hype surrounding Mueller’s testimony, coupled with Trump’s racist attacks last week, as an opportunity to join their colleagues who have advocated for removing the president from office.
The keystone to impeachment, however, still lies in the hands of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has been steadfast in her insistence that Democrats should focus on their message leading up to the 2020 election rather than impeaching the president. Though Pelosi’s resolve may be strong, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for her to justify holding off on impeachment, as it looks like a majority of her caucus could soon oppose her on the issue. A majority of Democratic voters already do. A Politico/Morning Consult poll found last month that 67 percent of Democratic voters think the House should being impeachment proceedings.