He was subtle about it, but, in his terse but straightforward statement to the press on Wednesday morning, special counsel Robert Mueller clearly signaled that he was willing to testify before Congress.
Not that he wants to make any more public appearances. “I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner,” he said. However, a few seconds later, he added the following:
There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. … I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.
Notice: He did not say he wouldn’t testify. To the contrary, the sentence above—in which he says what he would or would not say “in any appearance before Congress”—assumes that he would appear before Congress, if asked or ordered to do so.
In other ways, which many have already noted, Mueller tossed the ball to Congress. For instance, he said that he was barred from indicting President Donald Trump because the Justice Department’s administrative rules—which Mueller is a stickler at following—prohibit indicting a sitting president. But Mueller wrote several times in his report—even if he didn’t say so explicitly on Wednesday—that Congress has many ways of going after a corrupt or obstructive president.
For instance: “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.” And: “Congress can permissibly criminalize certain obstructive conduct by the President, such as suborning perjury, intimidating witnesses, or fabricating evidence.” And: “We concluded that Congress can validly make obstruction-of-justice statutes applicable to corruptly motivated official acts of the President without impermissibly undermining his Article II functions.” And though he notes that impeachment is a “drastic” measure to take against such a president, “Congress is not restricted to relying only on impeachment”
Despite its bestseller status, few people managed to read the Mueller report—much less make it through to the end. So few people read it, in fact, that Mueller’s words on Wednesday—which came straight out of the report—struck many people as news. It helps to have the author read crucial portions of his report out loud. It would also help to have a panel of well-briefed senators asking the author to clarify certain passages that were written in legalistic prose. And it would be especially useful if these questions and answers were broadcast to an audience of millions of Americans, who might regard the clarifications as not just enlightening but shocking and enabling.
Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler: Take Mueller up on his offer—call him to testify now.