WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s turnabout on whether the special counsel should appear before Congress — “Bob Mueller should not testify,” he tweeted — has sparked criticism from Democratic lawmakers eager to question the author of the report on Russia’s election interference.
Trump had previously said he would leave the question of Robert Mueller testifying to Attorney General William Barr. The attorney general has said he has no objection to Mueller testifying.
Not only did Trump in tweets Sunday contend that Mueller’s report didn’t reveal collusion and that there was no obstruction, he asserted: “Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!”
Tensions between the White House and House Democrats have been fueled by disputes over calling administration officials before multiple committees, among them former White House counsel Don McGahn, and obtaining an unredacted copy of the special counsel’s report and its underlying evidence as well as information relating to Trump’s personal and business finances.
“First @realDonaldTrump repeatedly tried to fire Mueller,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted Sunday in response to Trump’s messages. “Then he refused to be interviewed by Mueller. Now he’s trying to silence Mueller. For a man who constantly proclaims his innocence, @realDonaldTrump is acting awfully guilty. Mueller must testify publicly before Congress.”
“Today, Trump announced he is opposed to Mueller testifying before Congress. Before the American people,” tweeted Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee. “He also opposes letting McGahn appear. Barr’s testimony alone — designed to protect Trump — isn’t going to cut it. They will testify. The American people deserve the truth.”
Trump’s repeated statements on collusion and obstruction differ from the report’s. On collusion, Mueller said he did not assess whether that occurred because it is not a legal term. He looked into a potential criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and said the investigation did not collect sufficient evidence to establish criminal charges on that front. Mueller didn’t charge Trump with obstruction but wrote that he couldn’t exonerate him, either.
In his tweets Sunday, Trump did not indicate if he would take any steps to block Mueller, who is a Justice Department employee. The president tweeted after a Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said he was hopeful Mueller would testify, noting that May 15 has been proposed.
“We hope the special counsel will appear” at that time, Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline told “Fox News Sunday” and added that “we think the American people have a right to hear directly from him.” Cicilline later tweeted that “nothing has been agreed to yet.”
The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, said last week the committee was “firming up the date” for Mueller’s testimony and hoping it would be May 15.
Cicilline said on Fox that “obviously until the date comes, we never have an absolute guarantee” and in his tweet later, said that “we hope the Special Counsel” will agree to the proposed date for his testimony.
Representatives of the Justice Department and Mueller declined to comment on Cicilline’s remarks and on Trump’s tweet.