Special counsel Robert Mueller cast doubt on whether he will testify in front of Congress in a Wednesday statement — one he said he hoped would be his only public statement about his report.
And even if he does testify, Mueller made it explicitly clear that he would not speak on anything beyond what his report contains.
“The report is my testimony,” he said. “I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
House Democrats, deeply suspicious of the way Attorney General William Barr and the Trump administration have handled the Mueller report rollout, have called for Mueller to testify. Some recently told Vox they believe Mueller’s imminent departure from the Department of Justice and return to life as a private citizen will help speed that up.
Democrats had hoped Mueller would agree to testify in front of Congress, but House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler had also floated the option of subpoenaing the special counsel if President Donald Trump tried to claim executive privilege to block it. “We will subpoena him if we have to,” Nadler said in a CNN interview earlier this month.
Notably, he made no mention of subpoenaing the special counsel in a statement released shortly after Mueller finished talking. Instead, he reiterated it was up to Congress to take action to hold the president accountable.
“Given that Special Counsel Mueller was unable to pursue criminal charges against the president, it falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies, and other wrongdoing of President Trump — and we will do so,” Nadler said.
Read my statement following Special Counsel Robert Muller's press conference this morning on the conclusion of the investigation into President Trump and his associates: pic.twitter.com/1FDMotIgiY— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) May 29, 2019
Democrats would still very much like to see Mueller speak before their committees. But the special counsel threw some cold water on that hope today, and added that the decision of whether to testify was entirely his. Here are Mueller’s full remarks on the question of whether or not he would testify:
Now I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner. I am making that decision myself. No one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter.
There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.
In addition, access to our underlying work product is being decided in a process that does not involve our office. 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.
In other words, if Democrats were hoping Mueller would shed some light or give his side of the story on how Barr handled his report’s release, they would be disappointed.
Democrats in particular want to hear Mueller’s thoughts on the four-page summary Barr released of his report in late March. While Mueller’s report didn’t absolve Trump of an obstruction of justice charge, Barr did, saying he didn’t think the evidence the special counsel’s team provided met the legal standard for obstruction.
Even though Mueller wrote a letter to Barr in late March expressing concern that Barr’s brief summary of his report created “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation,” Mueller made it clear he’s not interested in elaborating for Congress.
“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,” he concluded.
Of course, this may not be over. Congress could very well subpoena Mueller to testify anyway. But even if they get that far, it’s unlikely the special counsel will go beyond what we already know in the report.