Democrats hope Mueller’s highly-anticipated testimony will help them bring his report to life — but their biggest obstacle could be Mueller himself

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee June 13, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • Former special counsel Robert Mueller will on Wednesday appear before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, to be questioned on the findings of his Russia probe.
  • Democrats will likely ask Mueller about why in the report he did not exonerate the president on charges of obstruction, but instead declined to reach a judgement.
  • Few Americans have read Mueller’s 300-plus page report on Russian collusion, which was released to Congress in April, but is dry and difficult to follow.
  • Mueller has avoided the easy soundbites demanded by the 24-hour news cycle, and has said he will not go beyond the contents of the report in his testimony to Congress.
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As Robert Mueller prepares to appear before Congress on Wednesday, Democrats will be hoping that this is a breakthrough moment to turn public opinion against the president, and breath new life into Mueller’s findings.

During testimony expected to last as long as five hours, Mueller will be questioned by representatives on the Democrat-led House Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees about the findings of his investigation into allegations of Russian interference and obstruction.

When the report was submitted to Attorney General William Barr back in March, ahead of its release to the public, Barr’s controversial summary of its findings was seized on by President Trump as a “total exoneration.”

But when the full report was released to lawmakers, a more complicated picture emerged.

Mueller in the report states that his probe did not find sufficient evidence to bring conspiracy charges. However, on charges that Trump deliberately sought to obstruct the investigation, he doesn’t let the president off the hook.

“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so” said Mueller in May in his first public remarks in two years.

He said that he instead did not “make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”

Mueller said he was unable to charge Trump with crimes because of Justice Department rules which ban investigators bringing charges against a sitting president.

“Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider,” he said.

This is very different from the “no obstruction” conclusion Trump claimed. It is this part of the report and the evidence behind it Democrats will likely want to highlight in the hearings.

Few Americans have actually read the dense report. Its relative obscurity prompted INSIDER to release a thriller-style rewrite, which you can read here.

A high-stakes hearing, carried live on TV, could offer a chance for Mueller’s findings to connect with the public in a way they have so far failed to do, with a potential big impact on the president’s credibility.

But there’s a problem for Democrats- and that problem is Mueller himself and his insistence on narrowly sticking to his brief.

Mueller’s conclusions have been expressed in the cautious legal terms. They are a world away from Trump’s incendiary tweets, unencumbered by a close concern for the facts.

For two years Mueller gave no public statements, while the president in tweets attempted to paint him as part of a partisan plot against the White House.

In his first press conference, Mueller declined to take questions from the press, and directed Americans again to the findings of his full report.

In fact, he only agreed to appear before Congress after being issued with a subpoena, with negotiations for him to appear voluntarily having failed.

And the former special counsel is unlikely Wednesday to break character and abandon his cautious and precise approach, formed over a long career as a public investigator.

In fact, Mueller has specified that he will be sticking to the content of the report, and likely won’t be pulled into discussing broader issues about the president’s conduct.

“The report is my testimony,” Mueller said in his May press conference.

So the best Democrats might hope for is to highlight episodes in the report many Americans remain ignorant of – such as the president’s repeated request for former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller.

In a recent interview with The Atlantic, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, acknowledged that views on the report “are very hardened.”

“So,” he said, “the degree to which Bob Mueller can bring this to life for people who haven’t had the opportunity to read the report – which is most Americans – is yet to be seen.”

But if they understand the full weight of those actions, Americans just might begin to draw new conclusions about the president.