Updated at 11:14 p.m. ET
Robert Mueller has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump, giving Democrats the star witness they’ve long wanted to put before the American public.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced Tuesday that Mueller agreed after he was subpoenaed to testify publicly. He will be questioned separately by the two committees on July 17, according to a congressional aide.
The two committee chairmen said in a statement, “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.”
The announcement sets the stage for possible blockbuster hearing broadcasts, live on radio and television.
Democrats have been stymied by the White House in their efforts to secure high-profile public testimony related to the Russia investigation. The president has prevented key witnesses, such as former White House Counsel Don McGahn, from testifying. He also has asserted executive privilege over Mueller’s unredacted report to deny Congress the full document.
Jay Sekulow, one of President Trump’s private attorneys, tells NPR’s Tamara Keith he is “not concerned.”
“Bob Mueller has already stated that his report is his testimony we now expect that his testimony will be what is in his report. It is important to note the irregularities that took place during this investigation will also be discussed during his testimony,” Sekulow said.
Trump himself tweeted, “Presidential Harassment!”
The ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins of Georgia, said in a statement that he had encouraged Nadler to subpoena Mueller to “bring to House Democrats the closure that the rest of America has enjoyed for months, and may it enable them to return to the business of legislating.”
“While the special counsel found that no Americans conspired with Russia to attempt to interfere in our elections, many have willfully misrepresented that conclusion while Democrats have neglected their responsibility to safeguard future elections from foreign influence. I hope the special counsel’s testimony marks an end to the political gamesmanship that Judiciary Democrats have pursued at great cost to taxpayers,” Collins said.
Democrats have pinned their hopes on Mueller, who closed up the special counsel’s office and resigned from the Justice Department in May, to resuscitate their flagging investigations. They hope his appearance will grab the American public’s attention in a way that his office’s 448-page report on the investigation did not.
It’s unclear, however, how cooperative a witness Mueller will be. The former FBI director is famous for his straight-shooting, by-the-book approach.
In his brief statement in May from the Justice Department podium, he emphasized that the probe did not exonerate the president, and that Russia’s systematic effort to interfere in the election “deserves the attention of every American.”
He also made clear that he does not want to testify before Congress. If his office were to be dragged up to the Hill, he warned, any testimony “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,” Mueller told reporters in May. “The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
Still, House Democrats are anxious to get Mueller — even against his will — in front of a national TV audience. The calculation may be that any clips of Mueller speaking, even if he sticks to the script of the report, will register with many Americans in a way the special counsel’s report did not.
Democratic leadership in the House remains opposed to impeachment at this time. But a growing number of the caucus’ rank and file — nearly 80 members — support beginning impeachment proceedings against the president.