Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, says that he “expect[s] the worst” when former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress next week. Speaking to Fox News, the California congressman said that he expects Mueller to show up for the testimony and hinted that what he tells Congress could be damaging to President Trump.
“I really expect the worst, because Bob Mueller does not have to show up,” Nunes said. “So, he's doing this on his own free will. That tells me the last time he operated on his own free will, everybody forgets, (Attorney General William) Barr came out with a memo, was very clear about the decisions that he had made, and then a few days later, Mueller decided on his own to go out and hold a nine-minute press conference.”
“So I am very concerned,” Nunes continued. “I think we should expect the worst because he only has to say a couple [of] things and the rest of the media -- not saying you here at Fox, but 90 percent of the media will take one little phrase and run with it and try to run towards impeachment.”
“And look, I know there was no collusion and I know there was no obstruction, so in that sense it was fine,” Nunes added. “However, there shouldn't -- this whole investigation was an obstruction of justice trap.”
Nunes fails to point out that avoiding the “obstruction of justice trap” was a simple matter. All the president had to do was not attempt to obstruct the ongoing investigation. Per the testimony of Trump Administration officials contained in the Mueller report, however, the president did not meet this low bar.
Since the Mueller report was released last April following a summary version by Barr in March, Republicans have claimed that Mueller found no collusion and no obstruction. However, Nunes’ uneasiness with Mueller’s testimony indicates that the claim is on shaky ground. Mueller’s previous public statement in May seemed explicitly tailored to counter Republican claims that the report had exonerated the president.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller pointed out in both the written report and his public statement. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
Not making a determination is not the same thing as an exoneration.
In his statement, Mueller went on to explain why his team did not make a determination as to whether President Trump broke the law, saying, “Under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office…. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited.”
“A special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy,” Mueller continued. “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”
Mr. Mueller will testify in open session on July 24 before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. His testimony was originally scheduled for July 17 but was moved in order to give members of both parties more time for questioning. It is also possible that the change could have been due to the fact that President Trump had scheduled a rally in North Carolina for the same day, which could have distracted from Mueller’s testimony.
At this point, no one knows what Mueller will say in his testimony, but Republicans are obviously nervous that he will undercut their claims that President Trump did not obstruct justice in his attempts to block the Russia investigation. A question that is certain to be asked is whether Mueller would have indicted Mr. Trump for his actions if he had not been president. If Mr. Mueller answers directly, it could do more serious damage to President Trump’s already shaky reputation.
Another likely line of questioning involves Mueller’s letter to Barr contradicting his public characterization of the report. In the private letter sent after the release of Barr’s summary but before his decision to release a redacted version of the report, Mueller said that the public summary “did not fully capture the context nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions” and that it had led to “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.”
The bottom line is that if, as President Trump and Republicans have claimed for the past several months, that the president did nothing wrong then there would be nothing to fear from Robert Mueller’s testimony. The fact that Republicans “expect the worst” from the author of a report that the GOP has claimed exonerates the president should make us wonder how honest Republicans have been in their defenses of the Donald Trump.
Originally published on The Resurgent