Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
Special counsel Robert Mueller wants to talk to Congress about his investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election, but he wants to do it behind closed doors, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Thursday night.
Nadler, D-N.Y., said on “The Rachel Maddow Show” that Mueller told the committee he would make his opening statement before the public. A transcript of Mueller’s private testimony would then be made public, Nadler added.
The Judiciary Committee and Mueller have been negotiating over terms of his potential testimony about the 400-plus-page report on the special counsel’s probe. President Donald Trump has said that Mueller shouldn’t testify, although he has also said that whether Mueller testifies should be up to Attorney General William Barr. The attorney general, in turn, has said that it’s Mueller’s decision whether he wants to testify.
Nadler said he did not know why Mueller has been pushing for private testimony, but speculated that the Republican former FBI director “doesn’t want to participate in anything that he might regard as a political spectacle.”
“We’re saying we think it’s important for the American people to hear from him and to hear his answers to questions about the report,” the lawmaker told Maddow.
A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment on Nadler’s remarks.
Trump has condemned the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt,” while also saying the report totally exonerated him of collusion and obstruction of justice.
Mueller said Russian agents did try to influence the election to benefit Trump, but he did not find sufficient evidence that Trump or members of the Trump campaign cooperated in that effort. The special counsel also said he “found multiple acts” Trump that could have had “undue influence” over investigations, including the Russia probe. Yet he did not exonerate the president, nor did he conclude whether Trump had obstructed justice. Rather, the special counsel suggested that it should be left to Congress to decide
“With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” Mueller’s report reads.
House Democrats have continued to press their probes into Trump’s conduct and business dealings. The president has pushed back, saying after a tense, aborted infrastructure meeting this week that there could be no bipartisan deals on legislation as long as he was being investigated. Democrats control the House, while Republicans hold the Senate.
The president has also sought to use the specter of impeachment to fire up his base ahead of the 2020 election. Democratic leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have so far resisted rising calls to begin an impeachment process, suggesting it would be politically perilous.
Nadler has been fighting the Trump administration on several fronts, and has threatened to go to court to compel testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, who was a major player in the obstruction portion of Mueller’s investigation. Impeachment proceedings would begin in Nadler’s Judiciary Committee.
A representative for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.