Wednesday 21 August 2019

Robert Mueller agrees to give evidence to congressional committees

The special counsel will make long-awaited appearances before politicians in Washington.

Robert Mueller has agreed to testify publicly before US Congressional committees (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
Robert Mueller has agreed to testify publicly before US Congressional committees (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

By Mary Clare Jalonick, Eric Tucker and Lisa Mascaro, Associated Press

Robert Mueller has agreed to give evidence publicly before Congress on July 17 after Democrats issued subpoenas to compel him to appear, the chairmen of two House committees have announced.

The special counsel’s unusual back-to-back appearances in front of the Judiciary and Intelligence committees are likely to be the most highly anticipated congressional hearings in years, particularly given his resolute silence throughout his two-year investigation into Russian contacts with President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Mr Mueller never responded to angry public attacks from Mr Trump or join his prosecutors in court or make announcements of criminal charges from the team.

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Donald Trump (Alex Brandon/AP)

His sole public statement came from the Justice Department podium last month as he announced his departure, when he sought to explain his decision to not indict the president or to accuse him of criminal conduct.

He also put legislators on notice that he did not ever intend to say more than what he put in the 448-page report.

“We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself,” he said on May 29. “I would not provide information beyond what is already public in any appearance before Congress.”

The two committees continued negotiations that had already been going on for weeks, saying they still wanted to hear from Mr Mueller, no matter how reluctant he was.

“When you accept the role of special counsel in one of the most significant investigations in modern history you’re going to have to expect that you’re going to be asked to come and testify before Congress,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff told reporters shortly after the announcement.

Mr Trump simply tweeted: “Presidential Harassment!”

In the report issued in April, Mr Mueller concluded there was not enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between Mr Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, which was the original question that started the investigation.

But he also said he could not exonerate Mr Trump on obstruction of justice. The report examined several episodes in which the president attempted to influence the investigation.

Democrats say it is now the job of Congress to assess the report’s findings. Legislators are likely to confront Mr Mueller on why he did not come to a firm conclusion on obstruction of justice.

They are also likely to seek his reaction to a drumbeat of incessant criticism from the president and ask for his personal opinion about whether Mr Trump would have been charged were he not the commander-in-chief.

Mr Schiff and House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler said they issued the subpoenas on Tuesday, and Mr Mueller agreed to give evidence pursuant to those subpoenas. In a letter to Mr Mueller accompanying the subpoenas, the committee chairmen said: “The American public deserves to hear directly from you about your investigation and conclusions.”

Mr Schiff said there will be two hearings “back to back”, one for each committee, and they will also meet Mr Mueller’s staff in closed session afterwards.

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