Neither Republicans nor Democrats are expecting bombshell revelations when they square off with Robert Mueller on Wednesday in five hours of congressional hearings on the Russia investigation, but both hope to extract enough from the famously tight-lipped former special counsel to advance their respective agendas.Mueller, 74, has made it clear he won’t go beyond what he has already said in the 448-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and alleged ties between Russia and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
“The report is my testimony,” he said in a nine-minute press conference in May that was his only public comment on the 22-month-long investigation he and a team of lawyers, FBI agents, accountants and intelligence analysts conducted. It’s unlikely he’ll stray from that commitment, but that doesn’t mean the two sides won’t try to bend him to their will.
For the Democrats — who control the House of Representatives — it’s an opportunity to refocus Americans’ attention on some of the most damaging details in the report, which came out in April, with a view to influencing public opinion about Trump ahead of the 2020 election.Mueller concluded there was no evidence that anyone in Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russians, but the Democrats say his revelations about the extent of contact between Trump associates and those working to undermine his opponent, Hillary Clinton, are damning enough — they just haven’t registered in the public consciousness.
The paperback version of the report is still at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, but polls suggest few Americans — including many in Congress — have read it.Schiff’s committee will be the second to question Mueller and will focus on the alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia while the judiciary committee will zero in on Volume 2 of the report, which covers allegations of obstruction of justice.
With each member getting five minutes and more than 60 members between the two committees, the conditions are not ideal for a thorough examination of the facts and lend themselves more to partisan grandstanding.