'No excuse left': Why Mueller can't wriggle out of testimony to House

'No excuse left': Why Mueller can't wriggle out of testimony to House
Robert Mueller in the Oval Office on July 20, 2012. (Photo by Pete Souza.)

Robert Mueller may not want to testify to Congress about the findings of his two-year long probe into the President Donald Trump administration's relationship with Russia and the president's subsequent treatment of that investigation, but, as progressive commentators and advocacy groups pointed out Wednesday, that's not really for him to decide.

In remarks to the media Wednesday morning, Mueller said that he would prefer not to appear before Congress and that, if he was called to testify, he would simply repeat the findings of his 448-page report, delivered on April 18.

"There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress," said Mueller. "Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report."

Mueller added that he was hesitant to testify based on his belief that doing so would be unseemly.

"I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress," Mueller said.

In a statement, progressive advocacy group Common Cause called for Congress to subpoena Mueller anyway, citing the need to air the findings of the report in public, irrespective of Mueller's reluctance.

"It is time that the public hears from the source," said Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn. "Despite reports of Special Counsel Mueller's reservations about testifying publicly, we hope that he will weigh in because the American people deserve the unvarnished truth, not spin."

People for the American Way's senior legislative counsel Paul Gordon agreed, adding that the House should walk and chew gum by getting Mueller on record and continuing to look into the many issues surrounding the administration.

"The House Judiciary Committee should continue to work to bring Mr. Mueller before the body to answer reasonable questions about his report," said Gordon. "More broadly, at a time when the administration is openly defying congressional subpoenas, House committees must continue their investigations into the corruption and criminality around Trump and defend Congress against Trump's assault on the oversight powers of a co-equal branch of government."

Jeffrey Isaac, the James H. Rudy professor of political science at Indiana University, wrote in a column for Common Dreams Wednesday that Mueller's statement is irrelevant to the law.

"He might not want to testify. He might truly believe that the report is his testimony," Isaac wrote. "But that is not for him to decide."

That point was echoed by Esquire's Charlie Pierce. In a column reviewing the special counsel's remarks, Pierce delivered a clear rebuke to Mueller's stated indifference to testifying.

"He has no excuse left," wrote Pierce. "He is a private citizen now."

It's unclear whether or not Mueller will be subpoenaed. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who, as head of the House Judiciary Committee, has the power to subpoena the special counsel, was lukewarm and noncommittal to the prospect during comments Wednesday afternoon.

"Mr. Mueller told us a lot of what we need to hear today," Nadler said in response to a reporter's question on whether or not the committee would subpoena Mueller.

But, as The New Republic's Alex Shephard pointed out on Twitter, that's insufficient for Americans who want to hear from the special counsel.

"The report isn't enough," said Shephard. "Robert Mueller should testify before Congress."


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