President Donald Trump reverses position, says Robert Mueller "should not testify" before Congress

Trump claims Democrats only want Mueller to testify because his probe didn't find evidence of collusion with Russia

Published May 6, 2019 10:40AM (EDT)

Robert Mueller; Donald Trump (AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Getty/Win McNamee)
Robert Mueller; Donald Trump (AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Getty/Win McNamee)

President Donald Trump said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller "should not testify" to Congress about his report on foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election, claiming Democrats only want the federal prosecutor to appear because his probe did not reach the conclusions they had wanted.

"Are they looking for a redo because they hated seeing the strong NO COLLUSION conclusion?" Trump tweeted. "There was no crime, except on the other side (incredibly not covered in the Report), and NO OBSTRUCTION. Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!"

"After spending more than $35,000,000 over a two year period, interviewing 500 people, using 18 Trump Hating Angry Democrats & 49 FBI Agents — all culminating in a more than 400 page Report showing NO COLLUSION — why would the Democrats in Congress now need Robert Mueller to testify," Trump wrote in a second tweet.

The statement marked a reversal for Trump, who said as recently as Friday that it would be up to Attorney General William Barr to decide whether Mueller, a Justice Department employee, testified to Congress. Barr said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that he has no objection to Mueller testifying before lawmakers.

The president's Sunday tweets came just hours after a Democratic lawmaker confirmed the House Judiciary Committee seeks to have Mueller testify before the panel later this month. Judiciary Committee member Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., told "Fox News Sunday" that Mueller was tentatively scheduled to testify on May 15, but later backtracked that remark on Twitter.

"Just to clarify: we are aiming to bring Mueller in on the 15th, but nothing has been agreed to yet," Cicilline wrote on Twitter. "That's the date the Committee has proposed, and we hope the Special Counsel will agree to it. Sorry for the confusion."

The White House, Cicilline said in the Fox interview, had indicated it would not interfere with Mueller's attempt to testify, and "we hope that won't change."

Democratic calls for Mueller to testify publicly about his nearly two-year investigation have grown since the attorney general released a four-page summary of the special counsel's report to Congress in late March and a redacted version of Mueller's 448-page report weeks later. Some Republicans have even called on Mueller to take questions from lawmakers.

After Barr released his initial summary of Mueller's findings, Democrats accused him of misleading Congress about the conclusions drawn by the special counsel throughout his investigation. Democratic concerns recently grew after it was revealed that Mueller himself wrote a formal letter to the attorney general on March 27, in which the special counsel expressed concern that Barr's summary "threatened to undermine . . . public confidence" in the Russia investigation and did not fully capture his probe's "context, nature and substance."

Responding to Trump's Sunday tweets, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Sunday that Mueller would testify before Congress, as would former White House counsel Don McGahn, whose testimony Trump also opposes.

"Barr's testimony alone — designed to protect Trump — isn't going to cut it," Schiff tweeted. "They will testify. The American people deserve the truth."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also responded, declaring that the president was "trying to silence Mueller."

"For a man who constantly proclaims his innocence, @realDonaldTrump is acting awfully guilty," Schumer wrote. "Mueller must testify publicly before Congress."

The Democratic chairs of several congressional panels have ramped up their investigations into the Trump's administration and the president's business entities in the wake of Mueller's report. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has vowed to "fight all the subpoenas" from the legislative branch and to block congressional investigators from moving forward with their probes. The White House's stonewalling has increased congressional Democrats' calls for impeachment. Whether this is a calculated strategy by Team Trump, designed to provoke an overreaction, is anyone's guess.

Mueller investigated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russian officials in that effort to influence the outcome of the election in Trump's favor and whether Trump attempted to obstruct the probe.

Although Barr determined Trump had not obstructed justiceMueller identified 10 cases of potential obstruction by the president in his report and did not exonerate the president on that issue. Mueller also indicated the evidence his team collected was not sufficient to establish evidence a finding of criminal collusion or conspiracy between Trump associates and Russia.

By Shira Tarlo

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