PoliticsConfusion hangs over Mueller testimony, as Dems plan marathon hearings
Trump to hold 2020 rally on day of Mueller's testimony
President Donald Trump will be holding a campaign rally in North Carolina on July 17 — the day that former special counsel Robert Mueller is expected to testify before Congress. Trump's reelection campaign has announced he will host a "Keep America Great" rally at Williams Arena in Greenville that evening. Mueller is scheduled to publicly testify before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees. Democrats are hoping to draw more attention to the report that Mueller gave to the Justice Department in March. It detailed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and reviewed several episodes in which Trump tried to influence Mueller's probe.
House Democrats are planning a marathon string of hearings next week for formerhighly anticipated congressional testimony, setting the stage for what could be hours of back-to-back questioning by dozens of lawmakers in public and closed-door settings.
A number of details, though, are still being ironed out, with the scheduled hearing just a week away. Lawmakers are expected to meet later Wednesday to try finalizing the structure of the politically charged hearing.
Here's how lawmakers plan to grill Mueller during his public testimony
Special counsel Robert Mueller will testify in public hearings before two House committees on July 17. Democrats hope Mueller will not only nail home the most damning findings from his Russia report, but also offer some new dirt on Trump. Republicans will likely press the former FBI director to respond to accusations of political bias in the government and on his own investigative team. Former special counsel Robert Mueller is now a private citizen, but he's about to make his most public appearance yet — and lawmakers of both parties are planning to make the most of the occasion.
This is what is known so far:last month, is set to appear July 17. The plan is for him to testify in public before the House Judiciary Committee for two hours or more, followed by another two hours-plus of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in an open setting.
But there are conflicting details over plans for a subsequent private session. One source told Fox News that the Democrats plan to have Mueller testify behind closed doors -- yet it remains unclear if Mueller himself would participate or if his deputies would answer questions instead.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has said that the closed-door session would only be with the special counsel’s staff, but House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., left the door open to the possibility that Mueller could testify privately as well. It also remains unclear whether the two committees would hold a joint closed-door session or two separate ones.
Barr: Mueller's Hill testimony will be 'public spectacle'
Attorney General William Barr says Democrats are trying to create a "public spectacle" by subpoenaing Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before Congress about the Russia investigation.
“This is already a weird hearing, with Nadler and Schiff contradicting each other publicly about who will testify behind closed doors,” a Republican source with one of the committees told Fox News.
Meanwhile, despite the mounting anticipation over the hearing, Mueller has already signaled he does not want to go beyond the details included in his already public special counsel report. Both Nadler and Schiff subpoenaed Mueller last month after the special counsel explicitly said he did not intend to testify before Congress at all.
“He was not willing to testify in public, but we thought it absolutely essential that he testify in public so that people can see it and hear it and that was what the negotiation was all about,” Nadler told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow this week.
House Democrats seeking testimony from two Mueller deputies: report
House Democrats reportedly want to hear from two of former special counsel Robert Mueller's deputies in closed-door testimony next week as Mueller himself prepares to testify before two House committees.The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Democratic lawmakers on the Judiciary and Intelligence panels are hoping to secure testimony from James Quarles and Aaron Zebley, two prosecutors with the Justice Department who previously worked on Mueller's team. Their requests come as Attorney General William Barr has threatened to block any of Mueller's aides from testifying.
Amid the back and forth over the hearing's format, Attorney General Bill Barr even raised the possibility of giving Mueller an exit ramp.
“I was disappointed to see the subpoena because I don’t think that serves any purpose dragging Bob Mueller up if he, in fact, is going to stick to the report,” Barr said Monday. “It seems to be the only reason for doing that is to create some kind of public spectacle. And if Bob decides he does not want to be subject to that, then the Department of Justice would certainly back him.”
So far, there's no indication that Mueller would back out. A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.
During his only public appearance during his tenure as special counsel in May, Mueller had said: “I hope and expect this to be the only time I will speak to you on this matter.”
“There has been a discussion about an appearance before Congress,” Mueller said. “Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself.”
Mueller testimony delayed by one week
It's unclear why Robert Mueller’s testimony was delayed until July 24.
During that press conference, Mueller announced the closing of his office and detailed the findings of the Russia investigation, underscoring that there “was not sufficient evidence to charge a conspiracy” with regard to whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election. His language on the question of whether the president obstructed justice nevertheless left the issue open and was seen by Democrats as a cue to keep digging.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” Mueller said. “We did not determine whether the president did commit a crime.”
Mueller explained longstanding Justice Department policy, which states that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, noting that “charging the president with a crime was not an option we could consider.”
“We concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime,” Mueller said. “That is the office’s final position.”
Mueller added that it would be “unfair to accuse someone of a crime when there could be no court resolution of the charge,” and added that “the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse the president of wrongdoing.”
On that, Mueller and Barr split -- with the attorney general saying that he "personally felt" Mueller could have reached a decision on obstruction.
But congressional Democrats took Mueller's statement as a green light to intensify existing Trump-focused investigations, with some calling for impeachment proceedings.
Nadler and Schiff’s committees, as well as others including the House Foreign Affairs and House Financial Services Committees, have ramped up their investigations into the president. Just this week, Nadler announced that he planned to subpoena a dozen prominent Trump-related individuals.
Meanwhile, President Trump cast the Mueller hearing as yet another chapter in the Russia saga.
"It never ends," Trump said last month during an interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo.
Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.
Trump says he doesn't plan to watch Mueller testify.
"At some point they have to stop playing games," Trump said.
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