Special counsel Robert Mueller may be on the verge of retiring from the Department of Justice, a move that would reportedly place him out of President Donald Trump’s reach. He’ll “be concluding his service within the coming days,” a spokesperson told The Hill on Monday.
Were the special counsel to depart from the DOJ soon, it could conceivably prevent the president from stopping him from testifying to Congress about his investigation into Russian collusion.
“If they tell him not to go and he wants to go, he can quit and then go,” Randall Eliason, a George Washington University law professor, said to The Hill.
He added that for the time being, Trump “could instruct [Mueller] not to appear voluntarily,” though he cautioned that Democrats “would just subpoena him” like they’ve subpoenaed everybody else.
While Attorney General Bill Barr has signaled that he has “no objection to Bob Mueller personally testifying,” the president made it clear in tweets over the weekend that he disagrees.
“After spending more than $35,000,000 over a two-year period, interviewing 500 people, using 18 Trump Hating Angry Democrats and 49 FBI Agents — all culminating in a more than 400-page Report showing NO COLLUSION — why would the Democrats in Congress now need Robert Mueller to testify?” he angrily tweeted Sunday afternoon.
“Are they looking for a re-do because they hated seeing the strong NO COLLUSION conclusion? There was no crime, except on the other side (incredibly not covered in the Report), and NO OBSTRUCTION. Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!”
After spending more than $35,000,000 over a two year period, interviewing 500 people, using 18 Trump Hating Angry Democrats & 49 FBI Agents – all culminating in a more than 400 page Report showing NO COLLUSION – why would the Democrats in Congress now need Robert Mueller…….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2019
….to testify. Are they looking for a redo because they hated seeing the strong NO COLLUSION conclusion? There was no crime, except on the other side (incredibly not covered in the Report), and NO OBSTRUCTION. Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2019
Democrats have sought to compel Mueller to testify because they believe Barr distorted the findings of the special counsel’s collusion/obstruction investigation.
“We need special counsel Mueller to testify because, as we have seen, the attorney general has shown us he cannot be trusted on the matter of the Russia investigation,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly said Monday on the Senate floor without citing any examples.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went so far last week as to accuse Barr of committing a crime.
“What is deadly serious, the attorney general of the United States did not tell the truth to the Congress,” she said angrily during a news conference early Thursday afternoon with reporters. “That’s a crime.”
“He lied to Congress. And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law. Not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general. Being the attorney general does not give you a back to say whatever you want and it is a fact because you are the attorney general.”
At the core of Pelosi’s dubious assertion were remarks Barr made while testifying to the House/Senate Appropriations Committees on April 9 and 10, respectively, a couple weeks after the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation but days before the release of his redacted report.
According to Pelosi and her allies, the AG lied during the hearings. But according to Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, that assertion is itself a glaring lie.
“In an exchange with Sen. Chris Van Hollen last month, he was asked whether Mueller supported his ‘conclusion,’ meaning his judgment that the president didn’t obstruct justice. Barr accurately said he didn’t know. He wasn’t asked about Mueller’s view of the summary letter,” he notes.
“An exchange with Rep. Charlie Crist was more on point. Crist asked Barr whether he knew what Mueller officials anonymously complaining about his letter were referring to. Barr said he didn’t (he presumably hadn’t talked to these anonymous officials about their concerns), but volunteered that they probably wanted more information out and explained why he opposed releasing summaries from the report.”
These points of fact do not seem to concern Democrats and their allies.
Nor do they seem aware of the fact that Mueller’s redacted report has been released to the entire public, including members of Congress:
It’s unclear therefore what possible additional information they might unearth from haranguing him at a congressional hearing. Democrats remain confident nevertheless that forcing Mueller to testify will somehow reveal something.
“Trump’s position now is a complete shutdown of information, documents and witnesses to Congress — and Mueller obviously could be a devastating witness, just if he tells the truth about what is in his report,” Rep. Jamie Raskin said to The Hill. “Remember, Attorney General Barr has basically created this propaganda smokescreen over the last month and we are struggling to pierce the fog.”
Testifying before Congress earlier this month, the AG accurately outlined Mueller’s conclusions. The special counsel had, as noted by Barr, essentially exonerated the president of alleged Russian collusion but made no conclusions about obstruction of justice, instead saying that there’s wasn’t enough evidence to prove either scenario — that the president had obstructed justice, or that he hadn’t.
In response, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded for themselves — based on their authority as the heads of the DOJ — that Trump hadn’t obstructed justice.
What remains unknown is when exactly Mueller intends to step down, as what his spokesperson said Monday was, in fact, a verbatim reiteration of what he’d said last month.
Mueller will “be concluding his service within the coming days,” spokesperson Peter Carr said in a statement to Quartz in early April. It’s unclear why there appears to be a delay.
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