Can somebody explain to me what all the fuss is about Robert Mueller bringing an aide with him when he testifies before Congress on Wednesday, when, if I recall correctly, the Mueller report concluded that there was “no collusion” and “full exoneration?” Just askin’. Because for a man with nothing to fear, Donald Trump sure seems agitated and he’s not the only one.
Rumor is that Aaron Zebley (Mueller’s Chief of Staff) will be on the witness panel with Mueller.
You don’t get to change the rules right before kickoff, especially after a 22 month, $30 million investigation.
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) July 23, 2019
Just got back only to hear of a last minute change allowing a Never Trumper attorney to help Robert Mueller with his testimony before Congress tomorrow. What a disgrace to our system. Never heard of this before. VERY UNFAIR, SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED. A rigged Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2019
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, cautioned that Mueller — not Zebley — would be answering lawmakers’ questions.
“Our intention is that Mueller do the testifying and not have someone else do it for him,” Schiff said. “Now, there may be questions that one of his team is better situated to answer of a technical nature. But we don’t want a hearing with Bob Mueller converted to a hearing with someone else.”
Both Zebley and James Quarles, another Mueller deputy, initially were expected to testify before the Judiciary and Intelligence committees behind closed doors, but those sessions were called off amid opposition from Attorney General William Barr.
Barr has said that Mueller’s deputies should not testify, and he suggested that the Justice Department would move to block them from appearing if the committees issued subpoenas to compel their testimony. It is unclear whether the Justice Department will try to disrupt Wednesday’s arrangement.
Again, why all this protest, if “there’s no there, there,” as Trump recently declared on Twitter, while claiming that he’d read the entire Mueller report — which if true, would constitute the biggest intellectual exercise of Trump’s entire life, reading 400 plus pages of material.
Now, in the real world, since the Deputy Special Counsel, Zebley, knows about the investigation in detail, he might be able to actually speed things up and provide fine points on key issues, that might otherwise be missed. However, that is apparently exactly what is feared by the Republicans, that Zebley might answer a question that Mueller doesn’t, or elaborate on some point in the report. Bill Barr’s threatening DOJ letter made it very clear that he doesn’t want Mueller to explain anything outside of what is already in writing in the 400 page report, because anything not in writing is “protected by executive privilege.” So, what’s going to happen?
[Jerry] Nadler said on Tuesday that Democratic lawmakers have “been operating under the assumption that he’ll do essentially what he said — he’ll stay more or less within the bounds of the report.” But the chairman also said Mueller “does not have to comply” with the Justice Department directives.
“He doesn’t work for them,” Nadler said, “and that letter asks things that are beyond the power of the agency to ask even if he still worked for them.”
Despite the Justice Department’s letter to Mueller, it is unlikely the department will insist on having a lawyer in the room during Mueller’s testimony to lodge objections to certain questions — essentially relying on Mueller to self-police his remarks. Mueller is known to strictly adhere to Justice Department guidelines, and Democrats do not expect him to deviate from that practice,
Mueller has made it clear he won’t color outside the lines of his report. And that might work out just fine. Vanity Fair:
But even if Mueller sticks to the findings in the report, he won’t necessarily be doing Trump or Barr any favors. The chief criticism of Barr’s handling of the Mueller investigation is that he misrepresented the report to make the president look better, thereby setting the narrative. Simply by restating the facts as laid out in his report, many of which would appear to contradict Barr’s summary, Mueller’s testimony may be one of the biggest political events of the year. Democrats hoping to launch an impeachment inquiry against Trump believe that just hearing Mueller’s findings, as outlined in the report, may be enough to shift public support behind them.
Bear in mind the 200 contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia. That’s a fact straight out of the report. If Mueller just says what’s there, the Mueller report coming from the horse’s mouth, rather than being reinterpreted and skewed by Bill Barr, could make a world of difference in how the report is perceived. In any event, the countdown clocks are running and we’re going to see what we’re going to see soon enough.