- The Washington Times - Monday, July 22, 2019

President Trump and his advisers Monday tried to blunt the looming media spectacle and political impact of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to Congress, calling the hearings a waste of time that will backfire on Democrats.

Also on Monday, the Justice Department warned Mr. Mueller not to stray beyond the four corners of his already-released report when he comes to Capitol Hill to testify.

As the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees prepared to shine a daylong spotlight on Mr. Mueller and his 448-page report Wednesday, the president said he won’t be glued to the TV.

“I’m not going to be watching,” the president told reporters.

Then he added, “Probably. Maybe I’ll see a little bit of it.”

The president tweeted that the House Democrats’ televised hearings won’t be worth watching much because essentially it’s a rerun of the report Mr. Mueller released in April, finding no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.

“Highly conflicted Robert Mueller should not be given another bite at the apple,” the president wrote.

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller said the former special counsel will give an opening statement to the committees, and suggested that he won’t stray beyond the findings of the report. The committees issued a subpoena for Mr. Mueller after he said he didn’t believe his testimony would add to his report.

Jay Sekulow, one of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, said Monday that he expects Mr. Mueller won’t testify about subjects beyond his report.

“I think that would be completely unethical to go beyond the report,” Mr. Sekulow said on his radio show.

Mr. Sekulow’s warning was repeated in a letter to Mr. Mueller by Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer, who told the former special counsel that any decisions Mr. Mueller made, or information he uncovered, that he didn’t include in his report will be out of bounds for the hearing.

The department also has a longstanding practice of not talking about people who were investigated but not charged, Mr. Weinsheimer added.

The president repeated his belief that Democrats “are wasting their time.”

“We had a total no-collusion finding,” the president said of the probe.

Mr. Mueller didn’t reach a conclusion on whether the president tried to obstruct his $35 million investigation, but Attorney General William Barr subsequently concluded there would be no obstruction-of-justice charges.

Mr. Trump will travel to West Virginia on Wednesday for a campaign fundraiser, but isn’t scheduled to hold a rally, the kind of forum where he could push back on camera against his Democratic critics.

Mr. Trump predicted the Democrats’ refusal to let go of the investigation will hurt their party in next year’s election.

“Nobody has done in two and a half years what we’ve done: the biggest tax cuts in history; the biggest regulation cuts in history,” he said. “We should keep the presidency, I would think easy, when you have the strongest economy in the history of our country. In theory, I have a big advantage. But the Democrats, they don’t want to talk about that. They want to stay off the economy subject.”

Several House committees are conducting investigations that could still lead to an impeachment effort.

But Mr. Trump noted that even a majority of Democrats voted with Republicans last week in a lopsided House vote against an impeachment resolution pushed by a few Democratic dissenters. “They tried an impeachment vote and they got slaughtered,” he said.

Speaking to reporters Monday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said the president isn’t worried about Mr. Mueller’s appearance.

“The president has zero concerns except that taxpayers are on the hook again for this fantasy that never came true … that there would be a criminal conspiracy and conclusion,” she said, noting that the investigation cost an estimated $35 million.

She also called it an “insult to taxpayers and insult to Americans’ intelligence” for Mr. Mueller to go to Congress and read from his report.

“It’s an insult to democracy,” she said.

⦁ Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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