Ever since special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report was released to the public in lightly-redacted fashion, House Democrats have been demanding that he come before Congress and testify publicly about both his findings and the manner in which they were released by Attorney General William Barr.
Such a hearing has yet to happen, and recent media reports indicate that Mueller is hesitant to appear before congressional committees, ostensibly over fears he will be viewed as a partisan political actor, but possibly over fears of potentially getting caught in a contradiction and perjury trap.
House, Mueller at odds over hearing
Reports on Tuesday suggested that, according to unnamed sources on Mueller’s team who spoke to CNN, the special counsel is “reluctant” to testify publicly in front of Congress because doing so after working behind the scenes for the past two years may create the appearance of political bias on his part.
Negotiations over his testimony were said to be ongoing, with some positing that Mueller would have no problem testifying in a private, closed-door hearing, even though most Democrats want the hearing to be public so as to air all of Trump’s dirty laundry for every American to see.
The Department of Justice was reportedly minimally involved in the negotiations, as AG Barr has already stated that “It’s Bob’s call whether he wants to testify.”
Mueller’s eventual testimony seems inevitable one way or another, however, as Democratic House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler told CNN that he was willing to issue a subpoena for Mueller’s appearance, if that proved necessary.
Democrats want public spectacle
A report from the Washington Post largely echoed the CNN report, though it suggested that the DOJ was perhaps more involved in attempting to avoid a public hearing than previously noted.
Committee Democrats, of course, are demanding the hearings be public, as they want everyone to hear Mueller’s answers to questions about whether Trump should have been charged with obstruction of justice, as well as Mueller’s views on Barr’s handling of the initial summary of the final report and the redactions of the full report.
It is noteworthy that, given how Mueller was reluctant to press forward or even strongly suggest in the report that President Trump had committed obstruction, it seems highly unlikely that he would want to make such an accusation publicly in a committee hearing.
Potential perjury trap?
Left unmentioned by either of those reports is another reason that Mueller may be hesitant to testify under oath to congressional committees — the possibility that he may contradict his own report or commit perjury by making untruthful statements.
It wouldn’t just be Democrats asking Mueller questions during a hearing, but Republican committee members as well, and some of their pointed questions could easily catch Mueller in an obvious contradiction between his report and testimony, if not a blatant lie to members and the American people.
It isn’t hard to imagine that, following his two-year investigation of Trump in which he was portrayed as the silent and neutral arbiter of blind justice, Mueller doesn’t want to blow that and risk being exposed as a Trump-hating partisan hack or politically-motivated liar by publicly testifying before Congress.