For the last week, as the House Judiciary Committee has negotiated with special counsel Robert Mueller to secure his testimony, there has been one big sticking point: Mueller does not want to appear in public. On the other hand, committee Chairman Jerry Nadler very much does want the special counsel to speak on camera. On Friday, it appeared that the committee is approaching a deal according to which Mueller would provide an opening statement in public, then move behind closed doors for questioning.
For Nadler, this is clearly a reluctant agreement. A big part of bringing Mueller in to talk is to clear up some specific items. Big items. Items such as Mueller’s reaction to the letter that Attorney General William Barr sent to Congress that distorted the findings of the investigation. And, perhaps most importantly, whether Mueller actually intended for Barr to make an overnight decision about obstruction, or whether he meant that decision to be left to Congress.
Talking Points Memo reports that Nadler said of Mueller, “He envisions himself correctly as a man of great rectitude and apolitical and he doesn’t want to participate in anything that he might regard as a political spectacle…” But while some speculation has gone on about the special counsel being reluctant to say anything that might upset Barr, Nadler indicated that Mueller’s actual concerns were more about Republicans dragging the conversation off track by asking him questions about the origins of the investigation, which was initiated before Mueller came on board, or trying to get him to theorize about the political leanings of his staff.
Being behind closed doors won’t stop either that or Republican chest-thumping over what a waste of time it is, now that the Mueller report is in, to be talking to … Mueller. But it also means that both Democrats and Republicans are likely to emerge from behind those closed doors stating that they heard just what they wanted to hear.
The public will still be in the dark until—if—transcripts are made available. And even then, it’ll be denied the opportunity to look into Robert Mueller’s face and hear his evaluation of what happened straight from the man who led the investigation.