- The former special counsel Robert Mueller is testifying before two House committees on Wednesday about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
- Mueller has previously said he would not reveal information beyond what is already public in the report.
- Because many Americans, and even members of Congress, have not read the full special counsel report, some Democrats are relying on the media circus the hearings will create to boost the report’s exposure.
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WASHINGTON – Democrats know the former Special Counsel Robert Mueller is not poised to reveal any Earth-shattering new information during his upcoming testimonies before the House Committees on Intelligence and the Judiciary.
But they are leaning heavily on the exposure a blockbuster hearing broadcast live across the country will have for an American public – and many lawmakers – who have not yet read his final report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller himself made clear he would not reveal any new information during a congressional testimony, telling reporters in a May statement he considers the special counsel report as last word on the investigation.
“The report is my testimony,” he said. “I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
“So beyond what I have said here today and what is contained in our written work, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress,” Mueller added.
Despite his definitive statement that he would not discuss the investigation further, House Democrats remained hellbent on bringing Mueller in to testify in a public setting. As a result, Mueller will appear before two committees on Wednesday. The first will be in front of the House Judiciary Committee, followed by the House Intelligence Committee.
But the hearing is not so much about revealing new information or getting to the bottom of Mueller’s decision-making or conclusions. It is about exposure and elevating what was already published in a report that many Americans and members of Congress have not bothered to read.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told INSIDER the hearing is primarily about being able to hear directly from Mueller about the report.
“This will be the first opportunity for the public to hear in detail Bob Mueller speak in his own words about his investigation, about the systemic interference by the Russians, about the degree to which the Trump campaign welcomed and encouraged and made use of their help,” he said. “And as most people have not had a chance to read his lengthy report, this may be the first time they hear directly from the source. So I think that alone is going to be important.”
Regarding Attorney General William Barr, Schiff said, “It’s clear the attorney general doesn’t want him testifying at all but we’re looking forward to the hearing.” But Barr has said he would not object to Mueller testifying, but expressed his belief it would quickly turn into a “public spectacle.”
“I’m not sure what purpose is served by dragging him up there and trying to grill him,” Barr said. “I don’t think Mueller should be treated that way or subject himself to that, if he doesn’t want to.”
Schiff is not the only one banking on the massive media exposure that will come from Mueller’s public testimony dominating the airwaves.
“I think that the report has brought some clarity and his own public statement brought further clarity,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a press conference. “And now when he speaks about it, more people will know what is in the report. I think we should approach it with all of the appropriateness – the seriousness of purpose.”
Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, a Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, told INSIDER he wants to hear “background and context for the report,” adding he does not believe Mueller is going to venture beyond it.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting hearing that some people would want,” he said. “I really do expect him to stick very closely to the text of the report.”
But a blockbuster news cycle in which Mueller repeatedly discusses what has already been public in the report might be the momentum pro-impeachment Democrats need. A forced vote against the will of Pelosi and top Democratic leaders on an impeachment resolution last Thursday failed, but not without significant support from Democrats.
Lawmakers scrapped the resolution 332-95, with one abstention. But those numbers could change significantly if Mueller’s testimony creates an atmosphere of pressure among Democrats who have so far opposed impeachment efforts.