Robert Mueller is diligently preparing for his highly anticipated public testimony to Congress on Wednesday, about three months after the special counsel’s team released a redacted report on its Russia investigation for the country to read.
For his back-to-back hearings with the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, Mueller reportedly has a prepared opening statement that the Justice Department has not been seen, his spokesperson told NBC and CNN on Monday. He will testify about the findings in his report, released in April, on the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and President Donald Trump’s possible obstruction of justice.
The Justice Department told Mueller in a letter to stay within the boundaries of his public report during his testimony, arguing that issues within the probe’s scope “were covered by executive privilege, including information protected by law enforcement, deliberative process, attorney work product, and presidential communications privileges.” But neither the Justice Department nor the White House announced plans to place lawyers in the room during the hearings.
Mueller has already repeatedly stressed that if forced to testify, he wouldn’t stray far from information he’s already written in his report. In his first public statement about the investigation since it began two years ago, Mueller stated on May 29 that the report does not exonerate Trump, and that “it’s important the office’s written work speaks for itself.”
Democrats have acknowledged that the testimony will probably not provide any new information, but hope that the former special counsel speaking before Congress for the public to watch will reach a wider audience than the actual 448-page report, which hardly changed public opinion.
Democrats also previously argued that Mueller’s testimony is important because the White House continues to prevent witnesses from testifying before Congress about incidents detailed in the report.
The report found that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 U.S. election and outlined several contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, but was not able to establish sufficient evidence to support charges of criminal conspiracy against the Trump campaign (collusion was not something the report addressed, despite Trump’s frequent claims to the contrary).
The report did detail 10 events during which Trump may have tried to obstruct the investigation, but it stopped short of charging the president with a crime. Mueller has repeatedly grounded that decision in an old Justice Department memo that forbids prosecuting a sitting president.
Attorney General William Barr, who’s been accused of spinning Mueller’s findings in his own summary, and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein chose not to charge Trump with obstruction. Obstruction of justice is a serious charge that could be grounds for impeachment, a hot topic that’s caused tension between House Democrats.
Mueller has reportedly been preparing for the hearings with a group of people from the special counsel’s office at Wilmer Hale, a law firm in Washington, D.C., according to CNN.
“If you look at him and his career, he is someone who comes to the table fully prepared and he’s going to be ready on Wednesday,” a spokesperson for Mueller told the network.
Mueller was originally scheduled to testify earlier this month after lawmakers subpoenaed him on June 25 to appear before Congress. On Wednesday, the former special counsel will first testify for three hours before the House Judiciary Committee at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, and then before the House Intelligence Committee at noon.
The White House and Trump’s reelection campaign are expected to monitor the hearing on Wednesday, with the president’s schedule wide open in the morning, according to NBC. But Trump said Monday that he won’t be watching “because you can’t take all those bites out of the apple.”