The moment has arrived. The question is: how big of a moment will it actually be? Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to head to the Hill on July 17, where he has been subpoenaed to testify before Congress. But what will he actually say?
Just last month he said his 448-page report speaks for itself. But even during his one-and-only public statement on his investigation into Russian meddling in American elections, he made major headlines when he said, “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” With that single line, he left a door open many had hoped would close and left the nation once again wondering if the president had broken the law and whether he successfully obstructed an investigation into allegations his campaign colluded with the Russian government.
Reminder that nearly three dozen people, including Trump’s former campaign chairman and multiple Russian operatives, have either been indicted, convicted, or pleaded guilty as a result of this investigation. Where there’s smoke there’s usually fire, and there has been a lot of smoke in this case.
So, when Mueller testifies expect Democrats to be the ones to fan the flames and Republicans to start another fire somewhere else. The GOP will, once again, try to turn the tables and make Mueller and his team out to be the bad guys by raising all sorts of questions about the origins of this investigation, setting aside any of the facts that resulted from it.
Mueller has honorably served our country for decades but, while he may now be retired, he still has an obligation to uphold the public’s trust in him by answering Congress’ questions candidly and thoroughly
Meanwhile, Democrats will try to get more details out of a man who has already told us he has nothing else to say publicly. But Mueller is a smart man who, during his news conference, demonstrated his ability to say nothing and everything all at the same time.
For example, he didn’t just cite the Justice Department rule that a sitting president cannot be indicted and stop there. He reminded Congress and every American that “The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.” With those words, Mueller called on Congress to open an impeachment investigation into the president of the United States.
Don’t expect Mueller to sit at the table and refuse to answer any questions and simply point lawmakers back to his report. His approach during his news conference demonstrated his ability to navigate complex situations and make a point even when he says there’s nothing more to say.
What is harder to predict is how he will answer certain pointed questions that will assuredly be asked, like “Do you think the president committed a crime?” Or, “If Donald Trump was not the sitting president of the United States, would he have been indicted?”
The Bob Mueller we saw in May wasn’t willing to go there, which is why he refused to take questions. But holding a news conference on your terms is a whole lot different than facing Congress and one of the fundamental questions every member – make that every American – has on their mind. Mueller has an obligation to provide the American people with clear answers about this and a number of other important questions.
Mueller has honorably served our country for decades but, while he may now be retired, he still has an obligation to uphold the public’s trust in him by answering Congress’ questions candidly and thoroughly. Anything less than that either unfairly forces the president to operate under a cloud of public skepticism or allows a potential criminal to occupy the Oval Office.