- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2020

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said Sunday that he plans to call former special counsel Robert Mueller to defend his Russia investigation, potentially setting the stage for explosive election-year testimony from Mr. Mueller on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Graham’s announcement came after the White House said late Friday that President Trump was commuting the 40-month jail sentence of longtime confidante Roger Stone, which prompted Mr. Mueller to defend his office’s handling of the case.

“Apparently Mr. Mueller is willing — and also capable — of defending the Mueller investigation through an oped in the Washington Post,” Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican, said in a statement.

“Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have previously requested Mr. Mueller appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about his investigation,” Mr. Graham said. “That request will be granted.”

The White House late Friday announced that Mr. Trump was commuting the sentence of Mr. Stone, who was convicted on seven criminal counts last year.

Those charges included lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing a congressional investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia ahead of the 2016 election.

In an opinion piece published Saturday in The Washington Post, Mr. Mueller defended his office’s handling of the case.

“The jury ultimately convicted Stone of obstruction of a congressional investigation, five counts of making false statements to Congress and tampering with a witness. Because his sentence has been commuted, he will not go to prison. But his conviction stands,” Mr. Mueller said.

Mr. Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee in July 2019, though many Democrats lamented that his appearance was underwhelming.

Mr. Mueller had concluded in his report, released to the public in April 2019, that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in that country’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. But he also said that, based on the evidence he saw, he couldn’t exonerate Mr. Trump of trying to obstruct justice in connection with the probe.

Democrats slammed Mr. Trump for granting Mr. Stone clemency, though presidents of both parties — including Barack Obama and George W. Bush — have doled out their fair share of controversial pardons and commutations.

Democrats said the Stone clemency amounted to Mr. Trump’s rewarding his cronies at the expense of the U.S. doctrine of equal justice under the law.

“It’s staggering corruption,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrat, raised the prospect that both Mr. Trump and Mr. Stone could be indicted the day after the president leaves office.

But it’s unclear how congressional Democrats might respond in the meantime.

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff on Sunday said abusing the pardon power to protect yourself from criminal liability is an “impeachable” offense.

But the California Democrat said Republicans are unlikely to go along with another impeachment process.

“They’re not going to impeach and convict,” said Mr. Schiff, who served as House Democrats’ lead manager during Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial earlier this year. “We already presented a case with overwhelming evidence and they refused to convict.”

The Democrat-led House impeached Mr. Trump last year, accusing him of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden.

The GOP-led Senate voted to acquit the president of the charges in February.

Mrs. Pelosi has suggested that she wants to pursue a constitutionally dubious law that would prevent a president from pardoning someone convicted of helping shield them from culpability.

Mr. Schiff declined to offer his specific support for that effort Sunday, but pointed out that he has introduced a bill saying that if a president pardons someone in a case in which the president is a witness, subject, or target, then Congress will have access to the complete investigative files in the case.

“There are things that we can do to discourage the abuse of the pardon power,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Some Republicans, including Mr. Graham and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, defended Mr. Trump’s move to commute Mr. Stone’s sentence.

Mr. Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Mr. Stone’s prosecution by “overzealous special counsel prosecutors” was “an outgrowth of the Obama-Biden misconduct.”

Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, meanwhile, said they disagreed with the commutation, which Mr. Romney labeled as “unprecedented, historic corruption.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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