WASHINGTON ― Some Republican lawmakers still want to hear from special counsel Robert Mueller despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declaring “case closed” Tuesday on the Mueller report and any related probes of the Trump administration.
“I think it would be helpful for him to testify before the Senate. It would allow for people to ask questions and bring further clarification,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Tuesday.
In an address on the Senate floor earlier that day, McConnell argued that pressing forward with Democratic requests for testimony and documents related to the Mueller report would needlessly divide the country.
“They told everyone there had been a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign. Yet on this central question, the special counsel’s finding was clear: Case closed,” McConnell said.
“This ought to be good news for everyone. But my Democratic colleagues seem to be publicly working through the five stages of grief,” he added, describing the Democrats as having an “absolute meltdown” over Mueller’s decision not to recommend bringing charges against President Donald Trump.
In a tweet on Sunday, Trump similarly said that Mueller “should not testify” before Congress, even though he had signaled last week that he would not stand in the way of such a hearing.
But some rank-and-file GOP senators said they’d like to hear the special counsel testify anyway so that he could clear up issues about the Russia investigation brought forward by Democrats and Republicans alike.
“I have no problem with that. What’s he going to say? He’s going to talk about what’s in the report,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) told reporters on Tuesday when asked if Mueller should testify before Congress.
“Sure, I don’t see why not,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) added of the prospect of Mueller testifying.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), one of the only GOP lawmakers who has criticized the actions of Trump and his aides as laid out in the Mueller report, said that the “American public and, I know, I personally would appreciate being able to hear from [Mueller’s] perspective.”
Still, those same Republicans maintain that Mueller’s report cleared Trump of any wrongdoing and that the country should move on. Of course, Democrats view the report much differently.
“Senator McConnell’s declaration of ‘case closed’ is a stunning act of political cynicism and a brazen violation of the oath we all take,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a Tuesday statement, noting that Mueller’s report laid out 11 instances of potential obstruction of justice by the president.
“When a President is allowed to violate the law with impunity, and when a foreign power is allowed to interfere in our elections, it gnaws at the roots of the great oak that is our democracy, and could very well topple it,” they added.
Even Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a Trump-friendly red-state Democrat, said he “absolutely, totally” does not agree with McConnell’s speech urging the country to turn the page on the Mueller report.
“There’s no way he can make the statement understanding who we are as a people and the rule of law in this country,” Manchin added.
Democrats are seeking to schedule a time for Mueller to testify before the House Judiciary Committee this month, but they have not yet agreed on a date.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested Tuesday that Trump may well try to block Mueller from testifying before Congress, although such a move stands on shaky legal ground. Speaking on ABC’s podcast “The Investigation,” she put some additional weight behind Trump’s tweets this weekend in which he said, “Bob Mueller should not testify.”
“At this point, I think it’s the president’s ... that’s the president’s feeling on the matter, and the reason is because we consider this as a case closed, as a finished process,” Sanders said.
The prospect of a Senate committee hearing from Mueller seems less likely. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a top Trump ally who presides over the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said he has no interest in further examining the special counsel’s report.
Last week, however, Graham wrote Mueller a letter offering him the chance to “provide testimony” regarding any misrepresentation that he thinks Attorney General William Barr may have made about a phone call between the two men after Barr released a summary of Mueller’s conclusions last month.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), another member of the Judiciary Committee, said he’d welcome the opportunity to hear about more than Mueller’s thoughts about Barr’s characterization of his report.
“I got one question for him if Mr. Mueller was sitting there today: Have you changed your mind about your conclusions? If you have, you need to step up to the plate. ... If you hadn’t, as far as I’m concerned, this whole thing’s over,” Kennedy said.