- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Rep. Val Demings already knows what she’s going to ask former special counsel Robert Mueller when he appears before Congress next week.

“If we were not talking about a sitting president under the same circumstances, same evidence, would he have charged the person?” the Florida Democrat said.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, wants to know whether Mr. Mueller thinks Attorney General William Barr was on the up-and-up when he released his initial four-page summary of conclusions from Mr. Mueller’s 448-page report.

Meanwhile, Rep. David Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat, wants the party to focus on potential areas of obstruction, particularly allegations that President Trump pressured then-White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Mueller has been subpoenaed to appear before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees next week, in the must-see political event of the summer. He has said he has nothing more to add beyond his report, and resisted testifying, forcing the committee chairmen into issuing subpoenas.

Democrats, frustrated that the things they found outrageous in his report were met with a general shrug by the public at large, are convinced that the hearings can turn the report into the kinds of TV sound bites that will cut through the clutter.

Republicans, meanwhile, say viewers will finally get to hear Mr. Mueller put a nail in conspiracy theories that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to steal the 2016 election.

Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, says he’ll ask Mr. Mueller when it became clear to them that Mr. Trump “was no longer the core focus of an investigation,” a way of underscoring the conclusion that he didn’t conspire.

“When Robert Mueller leaves Capitol Hill, I think the American people will see that there was no collusion and there was oceans of bias,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said on Fox News this week. “I think bias will be the word of the day.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, said he’ll take the hearing in a different direction, prodding Mr. Mueller on Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, the two FBI employees engaged in an extramarital affair who were working for Mr. Mueller until their vehemently anti-Trump text messages were discovered.

Mr. Mueller, in his report, said he couldn’t find evidence of a Trump-Russia conspiracy, though he did see behavior on Mr. Trump’s part during the investigation that might constitute obstruction of justice. He did not reach any final conclusion on that matter.

Mr. Barr and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, looking at the report, concluded Mr. Trump could not have been charged, even if he weren’t a sitting president.

It’s not clear what Mr. Mueller is willing to say beyond recounting his findings and conclusions.

Mueller, more than any human in Washington D.C., means what he says and says what he means,” Rep. Jim Himes, Connecticut Democrat and a member of the House intelligence committee, told The Washington Times. “He said his testimony is in the report, so nobody should anticipate he will make news.”

But the appearance alone could change things politically, said Paul Schiff Berman, a law professor at George Washington University.

“If all Mueller did is walk through the report in clear dramatic language that would make a major difference,” he said.

Steve Schwinn, a professor at the John Marshall Law School, agreed, noting Mr. Mueller just had to highlight the “eye poppers” that can lost in dense page count.

“It’s not like you have to go treasure hunting for them,” he told The Times. “They’re right there. It’s plain as day. You just have to open the report and read it.”

Both Democrats and Republicans are planning to meet before the hearing to work up their respective strategies, but some lawmakers are already itching to ask their questions.

Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat who sits on the intelligence committee, said he wants to press Mr. Mueller on an issue the special counsel has seemed eager to highlight — the steps Russia did take to try to meddle in the election, through both social media and computer hacks.

Mr. Schwinn doubted counterintelligence issues will get much attention on the political theater main stage, but said it’s one of the most important things Congress could touch on.

“I think anyone with their head on really ought to be asking those questions,” he said. “What I think what we could actually learn is how we can secure our elections.”

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