If you’ve been wondering what the hold-up is on getting special counsel Robert Mueller up to Capitol Hill to testify, the partial answer appears to be wrangling over whether the White House can tie Mueller’s hands with an executive privilege claim related to the one it made over all redacted portions of Mueller’s report.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel is weighing whether that executive privilege claim could limit what Mueller is able to tell lawmakers in relation to the redacted portions of his Russia report. In other words, the agency run by partisan hatchet man William Barr is deciding whether Mueller will be prohibited from providing testimony about some of the most vexing questions remaining about his final report.
This may not be the only sticking point in scheduling Mueller’s testimony, but if this report is accurate and Democrats know about it, they should be shouting it from the roof tops. It’s another blatant effort by the White House and Barr to rig the system against allowing critical information to flow unfettered to the American public. Trump’s executive privilege assertion likely won’t hold up in court—it’s overly broad and supposedly only intended to allow the Justice Department to review which parts of the subpoenaed material should actually fall under an executive privilege claim. But now, the White House seems to be trying to use that expansive claim to cover all unreleased portions of the report in order to muzzle Mueller’s testimony.
The spokesperson for House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler declined to comment for the story and no Democrat has really explained what the hold-up is on Mueller’s hearing. Both the Judiciary panel and the House Intelligence Committee have been negotiating over getting Mueller before their committees. But here’s what Nadler told WSJ about any potential circumscription of Mueller’s testimony: “If they sought to put restrictions or limitations on the testimony, we would have to negotiate that. We would have to see whether restrictions are so onerous to negate the point of the testimony or not.”
Good god. Mueller’s testimony needs to happen STAT, unrestricted by White House demands. It. Is. Critical. And Nadler is saying Democrats would have to “negotiate” over which restrictions and, hey, those restrictions just might entirely kill the need for Mueller’s testimony anyway. Where is the urgency here? The discussion around impeachment is one thing—but Democrats must be more forceful about getting the basics done. Mueller’s testimony is a non-negotiable. And right now, it sure looks like the White House and Justice Department are just stringing Democrats along when it comes to the single most important witness that Americans need to hear from.