Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before two congressional committees today (July 24) about his investigation into Donald Trump and the 2016 presidential election. The House Judiciary Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will hold the open hearings. The principal conclusion of Mueller’s report was that President Trump was not in league with Russia to capture the presidency illegally.
Committee Chairmen Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced Mueller’s appearance thusly:
“Americans have demanded to hear directly from the Special Counsel so they can understand what he and his team examined, uncovered, and determined about Russia’s attack on our democracy, the Trump campaign’s acceptance and use of that help, and President Trump and his associates’ obstruction of the investigation into that attack.”
Are these Democrats the tip of the spear in ferreting out foreign meddling in US politics? Or are they using their positions and subpoena power to try to damage President Trump politically, as well as elevate themselves before key constituencies? Hope for the best but plan on being disappointed. As it seems now, the goal of those behind the Mueller hearings is to get him to somehow speak ill of the president and his actions in a way that is useful to them politically, both at the ballot box and perhaps in impeachment proceedings.
Don’t Expect Anything New
In May, Mueller said about his report that “[w]e chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
If that weren’t enough, according to The Hill, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent Mueller a letter on July 23, reminding him:
“Any testimony must remain within the boundaries of your public report because matters within the scope of your investigation were covered by executive privilege, including information protected by law enforcement, deliberative process, attorney work product, and presidential communications privileges.”
Apparently, Mueller asked for formal guidance from the DOJ on his testimony, and the letter was sent in response. We learned that Mueller has been preparing for his testimony at his former law firm’s office, along with former members of his investigative team. His spokesman put a final wet blanket on Democrats’ wishes for new anti-Trump material, stating “[a]s I think he made crystal clear then, you can expect him to stick as much as he can to the four walls of the Mueller report.”
No doubt Democrats will try to chip away at Mueller’s stoic presence, looking for a crack they can exploit. What about the Republicans? Well, The Hill broke another story this week on which they may wish to focus.
A Bombshell From a Different Direction?
Two weeks into Mueller’s appointment, his key deputy, Andrew Weissmann, offered to kill the prosecution of wanted Ukrainian billionaire oligarch Dmitry Firtash in exchange for dirt on Trump. This is all according to an article in The Hill by John Solomon published as an opinion piece. Firtash is stuck in Austria as he fights attempts by the United States to extradite him for criminal prosecution
“In a sealed court filing in Austria earlier this month, Firtash’s legal team compared the DOJ’s 13-year investigation of Firtash to the medieval inquisitions. It cited Weissmann’s overture as evidence of political motivation, saying the prosecutor dangled the ‘possible cessation of separate criminal proceedings against the applicant if he were prepared to exchange sufficiently incriminating statements for wide-ranging comprehensively political subject areas which included the US President himself as well as the Russian President Vladimir Putin.’”
Will Mueller have anything to add to the record here? While new revelations damaging to Trump seem highly unlikely, perhaps fresh disclosures concerning the Justice Department’s attempts to kill the Trump presidency in its infancy could come up.