On Tuesday it became clear that, no matter what Attorney General William Barr said in his testimony before the Senate, the White House intends to clamp down on any testimony by special counsel Robert Mueller. This followed a letter from the White House ordering former counsel Don McGahn to disobey a congressional subpoena and withhold documents requested by the House Judiciary Committee. And as the White House is blocking any testimony or documents from reaching the House, over on the Senate side Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is delivering the official Republican position that everything is “case closed,” so there is no longer any need for the White House to obey the law.
As ABC reports, Sarah Sanders repeated the exact same phrase in declaring that the White House would block McGahn from providing requested information, saying, “We consider this to be a case closed.” It’s clear that McConnell’s speech and the White House efforts are being coordinated as Republicans determinedly shut down every aspect of public transparency, accountability, and congressional oversight.
Special counsel Robert Mueller turned in his report to Attorney General William Barr on March 22. Expectations were that Mueller would soon be turning off the lights and heading back to private practice. However, more than six weeks later, he remains on the payroll at the Justice Department—and no one will explain why. However, as the Associated Press reports, there’s one big reason why the White House would want Mueller still down on paper as a member of the executive branch. If Mueller is an employee of the DOJ, Barr can order him not to testify before Congress. In fact, so long as Mueller is a DOJ employee, requests for his testimony go through the Justice Department. The department could simply refuse that request without ever formally submitting it to Mueller.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there seems to be no prospect that Robert Mueller, Don McGahn, or anyone related to the investigation will appear before a House committee. There is also no prospect that documents connected to the investigation will be provided to the committees who sought them using a legal subpoena.
The White House is in full rebellion against the Constitution in a way that is utterly unprecedented. Combined with the Republican control of the Senate, and the hundreds of judges that McConnell has helped Trump insert—including a stolen Supreme Court seat—this means there is very little that can be done about it.
Should Robert Mueller leave the Justice Department, there seem to be no grounds on which the White House could prevent his testimony. However, the same might be said of Don McGahn, who already left the White House … after shepherding Bret Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination through. But Trump is telling McGahn not to testify, on grounds that look like executive privilege, parse like executive privilege, but aren’t really because Trump never formally invokes privilege. It’s not hard to conceive that even if Mueller walked away, Barr and Trump would proclaim that he couldn’t testify because of his knowledge of grand jury evidence, or protected conversations, or any number of nonsensical, illegal reasons.
On the Senate side, Lindsey Graham has made it clear that he doesn’t intend to call Mueller or anyone else to testify concerning the report. Graham was in the “case closed” camp even before that became the official White House replacement for “F$#% you, America.”
Should Robert Mueller testify, he won’t have any blockbusters to deliver. The same is true of Don McGahn. What either of them has to say is already in the report. But then, that’s exactly what frightens Republicans.
Thanks to Barr, the GOP had just under a month free and clear to the tell the story their way, have it repeated in every media outlet, and convince the public that they already know the answers. In terms of propaganda, Barr’s three-page letter delivered more than three weeks before the whopping 440-page report is a masterstroke. It put the pro-Trump story out there without allowing anyone to see the truth. And when the truth arrived, it was couched across more than 400 carefully worded, legally phrased pages that allowed Republicans to pretend that it still said what they wanted.
Robert Mueller sitting on the stage talking about the investigation is the one thing that might draw enough American eyeballs to blow away the smokescreen Barr created. Which is absolutely why they will not allow it.
A Wednesday vote is planned on whether or not to hold Barr in contempt.