Trump’s team suddenly changes strategy on Robert Mueller

Trump and Mueller

The close advisers to President Trump are continuing to push for Robert Mueller to be brought before Congress and subjected to Republican lawmakers’ questions about the conduct and outcome of his investigation.

But this desire is a sharp reversal of previous White House sentiment from the past few weeks since the release of the special counsel’s report. The president himself has come out against Mueller testifying before Congress, and key Republicans on Capitol Hill have followed suit by stating that the issue is effectively “closed.”

Previous positions have changed significantly after Mueller’s public statement on Wednesday, in which he stated that he would have exonerated Trump if he could have and said that he was prohibited by Department of Justice guidelines from bringing charges against a sitting president.

“If they allow [GOP Reps.] Meadows and Jordan and few of the others there, they’ll eviscerate him more than they did Michael Cohen,” said Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney. Giuliani said it would be “emotionally satisfying to have” Mueller testify and that “in terms of the politics of it, I would love to have him testify. I think he’s afraid to.”

The former mayor of New York City said that he had spoken to the president both before and after Mueller’s televised statement to the press. When he was asked to describe Trump’s views, Giuliani said that all he could say was, “I can sum up his feelings as: Nothing new, no new facts, it’s all smoke and mirrors, so what?” Of Mueller’s conduct, he added: “I’m angrier about this than [Trump] is.”

The announcement Mueller made on Wednesday was a dramatic end to a two-year investigation in which he never spoke publicly. Appearing at the Department of Justice, he said he was formally ending his service as special counsel and then summarized the main findings of his report.  Mueller expressed his desire not to testify before Congress and declined to take questions from journalists.

“The report is my testimony,” he explained.

Many Trump supporters were angered by the appearance. Fox News host Sean Hannity dreamed about Trump-aligned lawmakers placing Mueller under oath and grilling him.

“If you are wondering whether or not Mueller is open to transparency [and] accountability in this deeply flawed investigation, think again,” Hannity said. “Oh, Bob Mueller does not want to answer questions [from] Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, Matt Gaetz, and other Republicans.”

Giuliani said he would like Republican lawmakers to grill Mueller about matters such as whether his team ever leaked damaging information to reporters and how former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was treated in solitary confinement. 

Other prominent Trump friends said they agreed with the idea that Mueller needed to be called before lawmakers, if only to provide Republicans with the opportunity to question him on items such as the composition of his team of investigators and the evidentiary foundations of his investigation.

Joseph DiGenova, a legal adviser to the president, said: “I think it would be really wonderful if Bob Mueller were to testify. I hope he does. I hope he has a respirator with him when he does it.” DiGenova continued: “I think there are many questions to ask him that are legitimate, given the damage that he caused by letting the investigation fester for two years.” 

While Trump’s advisers are increasingly itching for Mueller to be called before lawmakers, not all Republicans, including many of those lawmakers, are in agreement with the idea.

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House and a current outside adviser to Trump, said that the savvier move for congressional Republicans would be to use whatever investigative powers they had to focus on the origins of the counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign that preceded Mueller’s appointment as special counsel. 

Gingreich said that Senate Republicans, who are in the majority, would be wise to call in former Obama administration officials along with ex-FBI director James Comey to testify. Mueller, Gingrich said, would be a “dead end.”

“I think Mueller is smart enough that he would not hence be a helpful witness. And I don’t think it leads you to anything,” said Gingrich. “Mueller is a door to nowhere because nothing you will learn will matter.”

Credit: The Daily Beast