Here’s what to expect when Robert S. Mueller III testifies about the Russia investigation
Robert S. Mueller III wanted to keep a low profile.
The former special counsel — who famously avoided cameras for nearly two years when he led the Russia investigation — made clear he did not want to testify to Congress beyond what he wrote in his 448-page report.
“It is important that the office’s written work speak for itself,” he told reporters in May. “The report is my testimony.”
Not quite. Mueller is scheduled to appear Wednesday for three hours in the House Judiciary Committee and then for two hours in the House Intelligence Committee. His testimony will be televised, tweeted and almost certainly contentious.
It’s hardly the first such hearing, however. Here’s a rundown of others in the Trump era — and what to expect on Wednesday.
Comey says Trump lied to justify firing him
Former FBI Director James B. Comey was blunt when he testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017, a month after President Trump had abruptly fired him — sparking concerns that the president was trying to obstruct the burgeoning investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Comey confirmed media reports that Trump had asked him to pledge his loyalty to the president during a private Oval Office meeting — and that Trump had asked him to go easy on former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who was under FBI investigation.
In sometimes riveting testimony, Comey gave lawmakers — and those who watched the gavel-to-gavel coverage — an inside glimpse into his turbulent relationship with the new president.
He said he had kept detailed written notes of their conversations because he was “honestly concerned” that Trump might lie about what they discussed.
Comey suggested that Trump had fired him to quash the Russia investigation. He vehemently objected to the president’s assertions that the FBI was in disarray.
“Those were lies, plain and simple, and I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them and I’m so sorry that the American people were told them,” he said.
Kavanaugh angrily denies sexual misconduct allegations
Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh was sailing through the vetting process — until allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor in California, alleged that when they were both teenagers, Kavanaugh, drunk at a high school party, had pinned her down, covered her mouth and tried to pull her clothes off. After initially declining to make her identity public, Ford agreed to testify in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It showcased a dramatic daylong confrontation between Kavanaugh and Ford as senators grilled them about their memories of that night. And it marked one of the first moments in the #MeToo movement when an accuser and an alleged wrongdoer confronted each other on national TV, in real time.
“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified,” Ford said. “I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”
That afternoon, Kavanaugh delivered fiery remarks of his own, breaking into tears more than once, as he angrily denied Ford’s account.
“I have never done this, to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh stated, his voice cracking. “This confirmation process has become a national disgrace.”
Republicans defended Kavanaugh while Democrats praised Ford for coming forward. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called her a ruthless opportunist; Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) called her a hero.
Although some lawmakers wavered, the Senate later confirmed Kavanaugh’s nomination by a vote of 50 to 48.
Cohen calls Trump ‘a racist,’ ‘a con man’ and ‘a cheat’
Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime New York lawyer and fixer, gave a damning eyewitness account of the president’s business and campaign practices when he testified to the House Oversight Committee in February.
Calling Trump “a racist,” “a con man” and “a cheat,” Cohen said Trump had overseen negotiations to develop a Trump Tower Moscow project during the 2016 campaign “and lied about it” in public.
He also said Trump had approved hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels days before the election to stop her from disclosing their affair.
Cohen’s incendiary testimony prompted dramatic exchanges with Democrats and fiery rebuttals from Republicans, who noted that he already had pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.
Arguing that Cohen didn’t “know truth from falsehood,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) pointed to a placard with Cohen’s face on it, next to the words, “Liar, liar pants on fire!”
Democrats played up Cohen’s explosive allegations. California Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) asked whether Trump had ever asked Cohen to issue threats on his behalf. Cohen estimated that he had done so roughly 500 times.
Cohen, who testified shortly before he reported to prison, appeared to enjoy the spotlight.
When Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) asked if he was simply trying to boost a book deal, Cohen retorted that he had been approached by film companies and “if you want to tell me who you would like to play you, I’m more than happy to write the name down.”
It’s Mueller time — redux
Mueller is unlikely to show the same flair for the theatrical.
On May 29, he read a statement to reporters — the only time he has spoken publicly since the report was released in mid-April — but refused to take any questions.
He said he was stepping down as special counsel and that he would not “go beyond our report” if he was forced to testify to lawmakers.
“I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress,” he said.
That won’t stop House members from trying to draw Mueller out.
Expect Republicans to try to discredit the former FBI director, arguing that his Russia investigation was politically motivated and biased against Trump from the start.
Democrats want Mueller to elaborate on evidence suggesting Trump repeatedly sought to obstruct justice, an issue crucial to those seeking impeachment proceedings.
Mueller and his team did not charge Trump with a crime, noting that Justice Department rules barred an indictment of a sitting president. But Democrats are likely to push Mueller to explain his decision not to consider charges given his startling statement in May.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said at the time.
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