WASHINGTON — House Democrats are in talks to have Robert Mueller testify before Congress, over Mueller’s own public statement that he would not provide any additional information about the Russia investigation.
The former special counsel has insisted his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election speaks for itself and that the report serves as his “testimony.” But House Democrats want Mueller to testify, even if that just means reiterating his findings.
“In the view of many he has a responsibility to tell that story to the American people and to face questioning from the representatives of the American people on both sides of the aisle,” said Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
Jeffries said there are ongoing conversations with the special counsel’s team on the “strongly held view” that he should testify before the House Judiciary Committee, “even if that simply means sticking to the script and the four corners of his 400-plus-page report.”
The special counsel made his lone public appearance last week since finishing his investigation. He said he expected it to be the “only time” he spoke on the matter publicly.
“I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress,” Mueller said.
But that might not be realistic at a time when many House Democrats are calling for action, and the number in favor of starting impeachment proceedings against President Trump keeps growing. Over 50 Democratic members, including more than half of the Democrats on the powerful Judiciary Committee, say they are in favor of opening an impeachment inquiry. While that’s only about one-quarter of the caucus, it is twice as many as two weeks ago.
In response, Speaker Pelosi has urged members to be patient and let committees continue their investigative work. Democrat-controlled committees have won repeated legal battles with the Trump administration. Their latest move is to call John Dean, the former White House counsel for Richard Nixon and the famous witness of the Watergate hearings, to testify before the Judiciary Committee next week on whether Trump obstructed the Mueller investigation.
But many Democrats want Mueller himself to show.
“I think it’s a question of duty to the country,” said Rep. David Cicilline. “I think that duty also requires him to share that report with the American people, to walk through the contents of the report.”
Driving this push is the belief that the Mueller report is full of damaging information about Trump, but most Americans don’t realize it. Democrats are still irate that Attorney General William Barr’s initial summary the report cleared the Trump administration of wrongdoing, while omitting damaging findings. Pelosi went so far as accusing Barr of committing a crime by lying about the report. Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee voted to find Barr in contempt for refusing to hand over an unredacted copy of the report.
Several Democrats said Tuesday that one way to get attention back on the contents of Mueller’s findings is to get high-profile testimony from the man himself.
“I wish everyone could read it. I wish it were on everybody’s doorstep. But it’s not like that, so we might need him to come forward to restate the basic findings and conclusions,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin.
On Tuesday, Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler shot down the idea of holding a closed-door hearing with Mueller, but left open the possibility of Mueller testifying publicly.
Democrats are undeterred by Mueller saying he would not be able to expand beyond what is contained in his report. For many Democrats, just getting Mueller on the record saying what his investigation found is the point itself.
“I think the country needs to hear from him,” said Rep. Ro Khanna. “Even if the hearing is him just reading the report.”