Former special counsel Robert Mueller agreed to testify after being served a subpoena. | Alex Wong/Getty Images
The former special counsel’s much-awaited public testimony before Congress is slated for July 17.
Updated 06/25/2019 10:27 PM EDT
Former special counsel Robert Mueller will testify in public before the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees on July 17, both panels announced late Tuesday, in what is expected to be a high-stakes hearing centering on President Donald Trump’s efforts to interfere with Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) served Mueller with a subpoena late Tuesday night after the Democrat-led panels and the former special counsel failed to agree on terms for voluntary public testimony.Story Continued Below
Mueller’s appearance could be a defining moment for Trump, who will be forced to watch as the man whose investigation tormented his inner circle for two years recounts the president’s attempts to thwart the investigation, which Trump has long derided as a “witch hunt.”
The hearing is also likely to give Democrats even more political ammunition against Trump, a president whom they have accused of obstructing justice and stonewalling their myriad investigations.
“The Mueller report revealed that the Russians waged a ‘sweeping and systematic’ attack on our elections, and America’s top intelligence and law enforcement officials have warned that the Russians will attack our elections again,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “Yet, sadly the president calls it a hoax, and suggests that he would welcome Russian interference again.”
“Americans have demanded to hear directly from the special counsel so they can understand what he and his team examined, uncovered, and determined about Russia’s attack on our democracy, the Trump campaign’s acceptance and use of that help, and President Trump and his associates’ obstruction of the investigation into that attack,” Nadler and Schiff said in a joint statement.
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Schiff told reporters that Mueller was “very reluctant to come in” for public testimony, adding: “He has agreed to honor the subpoena. And the testimony before the Intel Committee will give each of the members the opportunity to ask their questions.”
Schiff also said Mueller’s testimony will be divided into two separate hearings, one with each committee. He also said members of Mueller’s team would also participate in a closed-door executive session with lawmakers.
It’s unclear which of Mueller’s deputies will face questions. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said it would be “high-level” members of Mueller’s investigators who were intimately involved in the probe.
Mueller did not utter a word in public while his investigation was ongoing. But in rare public remarks last month marking the end of the probe, Mueller said his 448-page report “is my testimony” and that any appearance before Congress would be limited to the report itself. But in a brief letter to Mueller that accompanied the subpoena, Nadler and Schiff said it became “necessary” to issue a subpoena.
“Nevertheless, the American public deserves to hear directly from you about your investigation and conclusions,” Nadler and Schiff wrote to Mueller.
Democrats have been eagerly awaiting Mueller’s testimony ever since he completed his nearly two-year investigation in March. They believe that Americans haven’t fully digested the Mueller report, and that a public airing of the evidence contained within it could damage Trump politically ahead of his re-election in 2020, and potentially convince the public that impeachment is necessary.
“It’s going to be challenging for Bob Mueller and it’s going to be challenging for everybody because I believe he’s not going to say anything beyond what he wrote in the report,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), an Intelligence Committee member, said in an interview. “But, that said, most people haven’t read the report so I think there’s real value in that.”
Even if Mueller simply recites his report, Democrats could make meaningful progress in using the Mueller probe to their political advantage.
But Republicans, too, are likely eager to question Mueller, in particular about allegations that senior FBI officials were biased against Trump and tried to use the nascent Russia investigation to boost Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
“All they want to do is try to impeach the president,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said of Democrats. “I think there’s a lot of information that Republicans can actually get out of it.”
Several pro-Trump firebrands sit on both committees, including Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who have parroted Trump’s claims that Mueller’s investigators were biased against Trump. They’ve pointed to former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s voluminous anti-Trump text messages to argue that the origins of the Russia probe were illegitimate and carried political motivations.
Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, has long supported bringing Mueller to Capitol Hill for testimony.
“I hope the special counsel’s testimony marks an end to the political gamesmanship that Judiciary Democrats have pursued at great cost to taxpayers,” Collins said in a statement. “May this testimony bring to House Democrats the closure that the rest of America has enjoyed for months, and may it enable them to return to the business of legislating.”
The Justice Department declined to comment Tuesday night. It is unclear if Mueller kept the department apprised of his negotiations with the committees, or whether a government lawyer will be present for Mueller’s testimony.
Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.
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