House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., told top Democrats this week that he is prepared to hit the gas and issue a subpoena to Robert Mueller within two weeks if he is unable to strike a deal securing the former special counsel's public testimony to Congress, Politico reported Thursday, citing sources familiar with the meeting.
Nadler's comments, which came at a closed-door meeting Tuesday night, were his "clearest remarks to date" on the possibility of compelling Mueller's public testimony, the news outlet noted. Politico reported the committee is still negotiating with Mueller, who, according to Nadler, desires to deliver only an opening statement in public and take questions from lawmakers in private.
Nadler told reporters Wednesday that he was "confident" Mueller would appear before Congress soon, and that he was prepared to issue a subpoena to compel his testimony, if necessary.
"We want him to testify openly. I think the American people need that," Nadler said. "I think, frankly, it's his duty to the American people. And we'll make that happen."
Mueller spoke publicly last week — his first and only public remarks since he completed his nearly two-year investigation into Russian election interference in the 2016 election, alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow and whether the president obstructed justice. In addition to formally closing his investigation and stepping down from the Department of Justice, Mueller said: "I hope and expect that this is the only time that I will speak to you in this manner."
Mueller indicated that if he testifies before Congress, his remarks "would not go beyond our report."
"The work speaks for itself," Mueller declared at the time. "The report is my testimony."
Mueller wrapped up his nearly two-year investigation in late March, which did not find that Trump's campaign and Russia colluded to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. He did not reach a conclusion on whether the president had attempted to obstruct justice, although he did not exonerate him. Mueller detailed at least ten instances of possible obstruction by Trump in his report, and House Democrats appear eager to hold a blockbuster public hearing with Mueller to highlight his evidence detailing Trump's attempts to impede the investigation.
Democrats are expected to head to federal court as soon as next week to compel testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, who the White House blocked from testifying publicly pursuant to a subpoena. The House of Representatives is preparing to vote next week to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress.
The White House also directed former staffers Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson to defy a congressional subpoena for documents related to their time in Trump's administration.
Nadler's attempt to secure Mueller's testimony comes as Pelosi faces increasing pressure to launch a formal impeachment inquiry against the president. The California Democrat clashed with Nadler and other senior members of her party at the same meeting Tuesday night over whether to mount a more aggressive stance toward impeaching Trump, reportedly saying: "I don't want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison."
Nadler, whose committee has the power to initiate an impeachment inquiry, reportedly pressed Pelosi at the meeting to allow him to move ahead and begin proceedings against Trump — the second such effort he has made in recent weeks, only to be rebuffed by the speaker each time. He reportedly told Pelosi that opening an impeaching inquiry could strengthen the House Judiciary Committee's standing in federal court as it seeks to get testimony from McGahn and other witnesses, as well as information otherwise protected by grand jury secrecy rules like redacted portions of Mueller's 448-page report.
Trump asserted executive privilege over Mueller's full report and underlying evidence, but Attorney General William Barr has maintained that he is not thwarting efforts to get Mueller to testify before Congress. "It's Bob's call, whether he wants to testify," Barr said just last month of Mueller.
Some Republicans have also urged Mueller to testify before Congress, including Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.