Both sides hope pres­sure will break ‘Mueller rule’

Ex-spe­cial coun­sel vowed si­lence

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

Robert Mueller says his 448-page re­port is his tes­ti­mony, but that’s not stop­ping law­mak­ers from sig­nal­ing they will try to coax the for­mer spe­cial coun­sel to break the “Mueller rule” when he ar­rives July 17 on Capi­tol Hill.

In just one ex­am­ple, Rep. Devin Nunes, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, wants de­tails on how the FBI probe into the Don­ald Trump cam­paign got started, Jack Langer, his spokesman, told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

“Repub­li­cans will fo­cus on the many short­com­ings, bi­ases and false in­sin­u­a­tions in the Mueller re­port and try to find out why Mueller re­fused to in­ves­ti­gate the nu­mer­ous abuses in how the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion was ini­ti­ated and con­ducted,” Mr. Langer said.

Mr. Nunes is the top Repub­li­can on the House Per­ma­nent Select Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence.

Af­ter 22 months with the aid of 40 FBI agents, Mr. Mueller failed to find a TrumpRus­sia elec­tion med­dling con­spir­acy as al­leged by Democrats, Obama loy­al­ists and me­dia.

But some Democrats have not given up and want more in­for­ma­tion on MoscowTrum­p ties.

Hope Hicks, Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­mer com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor, found her­self an­swer­ing the same ques­tions on Rus­sian con­tacts when she ap­peared June 19 be­fore the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

Some Democrats are look­ing to im­peach Mr. Trump based on facts in the Mueller re­port’s Volume II sec­tion on pos­si­ble ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat and Congress’ most en­thu­si­as­tic pro­moter of the Demo­cratic Party-fi­nanced dossier, re­jected the “Mueller rule” out­right.

“There’s no lim­i­ta­tion on con­fin­ing his tes­ti­mony to the four cor­ners of the re­port,” Mr. Schiff, chair­man of the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, told CNN. “That may be his de­sire, but Congress has ques­tions that go be­yond the re­port.”

Mr. Mueller never spoke dur­ing his ten­ure un­til May 29, his last day as spe­cial coun­sel, when he is­sued a terse state­ment and vowed not to speak again. Un­der Demo­cratic sub­poena, he re­luc­tantly agreed to tes­tify be­fore the in­tel­li­gence and Ju­di­ciary com­mit­tees.

Mr. Schiff says the prece­dent was set by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr, who has tes­ti­fied on his con­cerns about how the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion opened the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in July 2016.

He ap­pointed John Durham, the U.S. at­tor­ney for Con­necti­cut, to set up shop in Wash­ing­ton to in­quire how the FBI spied on Trump as­so­ciates, re­lied on the op­po­si­tion re­search dossier and ob­tained wire­tap war­rants.

Mr. Mueller’s re­port ef­fec­tively de­mol­ished the dossier, which al­leged a sweep­ing Trump-Rus­sia con­spir­acy that the FBI didn’t find.

Mr. Schiff ap­pears to want to counter the Barr ef­fort by open­ing his own coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­quiry. He said he plans to sum­mon not just Mr. Mueller, but also his staff of prose­cu­tors for closed-door ques­tions.

How Mr. Mueller as­sem­bled that team is sure to be a topic for Repub­li­cans. Mr. Trump re­ferred to them as “18 an­gry Democrats.” Most prose­cu­tors had Demo­cratic ties, some as donors.

An­drew Weiss­mann, who han­dled the Paul Manafort in­ves­ti­ga­tion, do­nated to Democrats and at­tended what was sup­posed to be Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial vic­tory party in New York. Jeannie Rhee rep­re­sented Mrs. Clin­ton in two cases.

“We have le­git­i­mate ques­tions about how all these peo­ple ended up on the Mueller team that had a his­tory of do­nat­ing fi­nan­cially to Democrats. There did not seem to be suf­fi­cient bal­ance,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Repub­li­can and a Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee mem­ber.

Rep. Jim Jor­dan, Ohio Repub­li­can and an­other Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee mem­ber, tweeted, “I’ve got a lot of ques­tions about how Bob Mueller spent $35 mil­lion in tax­payer money to find there was no col­lu­sion.”

Repub­li­cans also want to know de­tails about Mr. Mueller’s fir­ing of two se­nior FBI em­ploy­ees — As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Peter Str­zok and his lover, FBI coun­sel Lisa Page. The two ex­changed loaded text mes­sages filled with venom for can­di­date Trump, with Mr. Str­zok pledg­ing to “stop” him.

Mr. Str­zok opened the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Trump cam­paign. Months later, he told Ms. Page in May 2017 that he might not join the Mueller oper­a­tion be­cause there was “no there there.” He ul­ti­mately did join.

He was dis­missed af­ter the Jus­tice Depart­ment inspector gen­eral dis­cov­ered the texts while re­view­ing how the FBI han­dled the Clin­ton email in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The FBI later fired him out­right.

The House in­tel­li­gence and Ju­di­ciary com­mit­tees have some­what dif­fer­ent goals in ques­tion­ing Mr. Mueller.

Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Jer­rold Nadler, New York Demo­crat, said he be­lieves Mr. Trump ob­structed jus­tice.

Mr. Mueller said in Volume II that he could not come to that con­clu­sion, but nei­ther could he ex­on­er­ate Mr. Trump. Mr. Barr then con­cluded that Mr. Trump didn’t ob­struct jus­tice, say­ing in part that there was no un­der­ly­ing crime.

Mr. Nadler, in a joint state­ment with Mr. Schiff, said: “Amer­i­cans have de­manded to hear di­rectly from the spe­cial coun­sel so they can un­der­stand what he and his team ex­am­ined, un­cov­ered and de­ter­mined about Rus­sia’s at­tack on our democ­racy, the Trump cam­paign’s ac­cep­tance and use of that help and Pres­i­dent Trump and his as­so­ciates’ ob­struc­tion of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into that at­tack.”

Mr. Mueller ap­pears to have ruled out an­swer­ing such ques­tions, which Repub­li­cans say would be tan­ta­mount to writ­ing a new re­port, in ef­fect Volume III.

“Any tes­ti­mony from this of­fice would not go be­yond our re­port,” Mr. Mueller said on May 29. “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.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­mer spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller has left law­mak­ers on Capi­tol Hill hun­ger­ing for more in­for­ma­tion from his in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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