Earlier today, White House Press Secretary/Information Minister/Princess of Lies Sarah Huckabee Sanders hinted loudly that her boss could potentially block Robert Mueller from testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Under this scenario, Trump could tell Attorney General William Barr to order Mueller not to testify. Since Mueller is still employed by the Department of Justice, Barr at least on paper would have the right to give such an order.
But there’s just one problem. In a few days, that order could just be hot air. Mueller is reportedly about to leave the federal government.
Mueller is still employed at the Justice Department, meaning Barr would need to sign off on his testimony and could in theory block him from appearing. Mueller is also expected to leave the Justice Department soon, which could leave the administration with little control over his actions as a private citizen.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office, told The Hill on Monday that Mueller “will be concluding his service within the coming days.” Carr offered no information regarding negotiations surrounding the special counsel’s potential testimony.
Theoretically, if Mueller were still on the DOJ payroll and was ordered not to testify, Congress could simply subpoena him—and according to George Washington law professor Randall Eliason, there would be little legal basis for the White House to fight such a subpoena. Eliason noted that Mueller would have another option under that scenario—resign, then testify. Apparently Mueller is making a preemptive strike by preparing to leave now.
Even as a private citizen, Trump could potentially assert executive privilege to block Mueller’s testimony—but that would be fraught with political peril, and legal experts say that could also go nowhere.
Pass the popcorn.