The Slatest

Robert Mueller to Testify Before Congress

Special Counsel Robert Mueller speaks on the investigation into Russian interference at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, on May 29, 2019.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller speaks on the investigation into Russian interference at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, on May 29, 2019.
MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

Former special counsel Robert Mueller has agreed to testify before Congress next month after being subpoenaed by two Democrat-led House committees. Mueller will comply with the subpoenas and appear back-to-back on July 17 before the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and the House Intelligence Committee, led by Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). The former special counsel has largely resisted calls to weigh in on the 448-page report into Russian election meddling published in April, offering one public appearance last month where he read from a statement and indicated he would have nothing more to offer publicly. “[The report] contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made,” Mueller said. “We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”

The hearings are certain to shove Trump’s campaign and presidential conduct back onto center stage, but it remains unclear the extent to which Mueller will expound on the findings of the nearly two-year investigation that resulted in 34 people getting charged and seven guilty pleas, including senior Trump campaign and administration officials. Mueller seems highly unlikely to opine broadly about his findings given the buttoned up nature of not only the investigation itself, but his public silence following the report’s publication. Mueller’s team did voice dissatisfaction prior to his lone public appearance with how Attorney General Bill Barr framed the report before its release, essentially offering a blinkered reading of the findings to construe a pre-exoneration of President Trump before the report dropped.

Even if Mueller doesn’t read too far between the lines of the report, his appearance has the potential to articulate the charges made against the president, as well as give momentum to the most damning findings in a way that the detail-rich report has not. Mueller, for instance, offered a straightforward rebuttal to Trump’s cries of “total exoneration” during his press conference saying: “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Even without embellishment, Mueller’s presence has the potential to animate the report very few Americans have actually read, which has allowed for competing interpretations and claims about not only what the report says, but what it means.

President Trump weighed in Tuesday night on the news of Mueller’s testimony.

House Democrats will be looking to energize opposition to Trump as rumblings grow louder among rank-and-file members to hold impeachment hearings on whether the president obstructed justice. Will Mueller’s testimony provide a clear path for congressional action that the report has so far been unable to galvanize? “I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations,” Schiff said Tuesday. “We want to hear what he has to say, and I think it’s very important for the American people to hear from him as well.”