When He Testifies, Robert Mueller Should Stick Exclusively to What Is in His Report

July 24, 2019 Updated: July 24, 2019

Commentary

Special counsel, Robert Mueller, is scheduled to testify in separate sessions today before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. Democratic committee members will undoubtedly ask Mueller about the scope of his investigation, the nature of his findings and whether he believes the president obstructed justice. Robert Mueller’s testimony is problematic and the  Democrats’ efforts to elicit his testimony are solely intended to taint public perception and to elicit possible ammunition for impeachment.

Prior to the release of the “Mueller report,” attorney general, William Barr, worked with Robert Mueller’s office to redact grand jury information, classified information, and other sensitive information. Barr also issued a letter setting forth Mueller’s main findings/conclusions (a “bottom line”). The full, redacted, report was eventually released and did not recommend any additional indictments.

Subsequent to its release, Mueller made a public statement relative to his investigation. The following comments were of particular relevance:

“I have not spoken publicly during our investigation. I am speaking today because our investigation is complete. The Attorney General has made the report on our investigation largely public. And we are formally closing the Special Counsel’s Office. As well, I am resigning from the Department of Justice and returning to private life.

“I’ll make a few remarks about the results of our work. But beyond these few remarks, it is important that the office’s written work speak for itself.

“As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the President did commit a crime.

“The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress. In addition, access to our underlying work product is being decided in a process that does not involve our office. So beyond what I have said here today and what is contained in our written work, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress.”

In anticipation of Mueller’s upcoming testimony, Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinscheimer wrote a letter to Mueller instructing him not to provide any testimony regarding the redacted portions of his report. More particularly, the letter clarified that “any testimony must remain within the boundaries of your public report because matters within the scope of your investigation were covered by executive privilege.”

Not surprisingly, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) disagreed with this directive. According to Nadler, “Mueller should ignore Justice Department attempts to stifle his highly anticipated congressional testimony, referring to their efforts as “part of a cover-up.””

Nadler’s position is not surprising. Congressional Democrats have been desperately seeking some sort of lifeline to support their push to impeach the president. Nadler clearly recognizes that if Mueller limits his testimony to the boundaries of his report, Democrats will not have enough to impeach the president, let alone get the American public’s blessing.

Of course, there are some compelling reasons why Muller should not stray from his report. The most obvious reason stems from his own assertion that the report is his testimony. While this statement was not made under oath, it is still important because it came from Mueller himself.

Second, unlike a traditional trial, where a witness on the stand is subject to cross-examination, Mueller will not be exposed to any meaningful cross-examination. Oftentimes, congressional hearings impose strict time limitations on those questioning a witness. Therefore, if Mueller sways from his report, it will be very difficult to significantly discredit, or poke holes in, what he says.

Moreover, given the nature of the hearing, the “accused” is not given an opportunity to provide his/her rendition of events and/or confront his/her accuser. In other words, there is nobody there directly representing the interests of the accused and to delve deeper into some of the basic, yet necessary, questions/inquiries.

Assume, for example, that Mueller is asked to read one of the statements from volume 2 of his report (out loud and for the record). After doing so, he is subsequently asked if the particular “conduct” set forth in his statement could/does constitute “obstruction of justice.” Arguably, this conclusion would be outside the four corners of his report, as he did not conclude that President Trump obstructed justice.

However, Congressional Democrats could serve to benefit if he answers this question because his answer(s) could provide possible grounds for impeachment. Unlike a criminal case, where prosecutors must prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for impeachment is much lower.

Therefore, if Mueller strays from his report and is not subject to proper cross-examination, he could willingly or unwillingly help Congressional Democrats with their push to impeach the president. In doing so, he could also create some powerful soundbites that could sway public opinion. This, arguably, would be inappropriate.

When Mueller testifies, his testimony should be limited to what was in his report. He should not be given a “second bite at the apple” to supplement his report so that Congressional Democrats can “create” imaginary offenses to impeach the president.

Mr. Hakim is a political writer and commentator and an attorney.  His articles have been published in The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, The Algemeiner, The Western Journal, American Thinker, and other online publications. 

 

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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