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How We Got Here: Mueller To Testify Before House Lawmakers


In his only public statement as special counsel investigating the 2016 election, Robert Mueller made a wish which did not come true.


ROBERT MUELLER: Now, I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner. We chose those words carefully. And the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony.

INSKEEP: As of today, Mueller's testimony will be his testimony. He's been called before two congressional committees. And he will be asked about his examination that confirmed Russia's support for President Trump's election. Mueller also investigated possible obstruction of justice by the president. His report details numerous ways the president tried to block the investigation but then says Justice Department rules prevent the indictment of a sitting president. NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas has covered this investigation from the beginning. He will be covering the hearings here in Washington. Hey there, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: So let's put - take up Mueller's question - what is the point of asking him to testify when he's already written a multihundred-page report?

LUCAS: Well for Democrats - and remember, it's Democrats that subpoenaed Mueller to come up and testify on the Hill today in front of these two committees. This is a big deal for Democrats. As of yesterday, they were running mock hearings, actually, to prepare and their final moments ahead of this.

INSKEEP: Someone was playing Robert Mueller and fielding questions, and they're throwing questions at him. OK.

LUCAS: Exactly. Exactly. So yes, there has been a lot of buildup over the past couple months. Lately, they've been trying to kind of tamp down expectations, put reigns on those because they acknowledge Bob Mueller is not a garrulous guy. He doesn't actually want to be testifying. And he said that his report is going to be his testimony. Democrats say that's just fine. That's because they think that Mueller's final report isn't something that a lot of Americans were able to digest. It's dense. It's long. A lot of people, frankly, haven't read it. So for Democrats having Mueller talk about his investigation in public, on TV - this is going to be televised nationally, broadcast on radio - will put his report and what Democrats say is really a very damning set of facts about the president in front of a far greater number of Americans.

INSKEEP: And because most people, we presume, have not read the full report what they have is descriptions of the report, which have been in competition with each other. Let's listen to a couple of descriptions. One is from the attorney general of the United States, William Barr, this past spring.


WILLIAM BARR: The special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those efforts.

INSKEEP: Okay. No collusion - the president's phrase. Barr actually took that up at another point and looked at the camera and said no collusion - also not enough evidence of obstruction. But that's not exactly what Robert Mueller himself has said in public.


MUELLER: If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.

INSKEEP: Any chance that this could be cleared up, these differing interpretations of the lack of criminal charges against the president of the United States?

LUCAS: I don't expect that those two statements - the one from the attorney general and the one from Mueller - will necessarily get reconciled today. I would not be surprised if Mueller is asked about his differences with the attorney general. And I do expect that Mueller will make clear something that his report was actually pretty pointed about, which is that the report does not exonerate the president. They say that clearly.

INSKEEP: And so that's in the report. He can certainly say that again in testimony. But is he forbidden, actually, from going beyond the report in the way that he doesn't want to do anyway?

LUCAS: He received guidance from the Justice Department this week basically saying that you should not, shall we say, travel beyond the four corners of what is in your report. And that includes talking about discussions about investigative leads or things that you may have decided or not decided to do during your investigation. Now, the committee chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff - he wrote a letter to Mueller last night saying there's no reason for the Justice Department to put parameters on what you can or cannot say. And I expect that it will not.

INSKEEP: OK. So Democrats want the evidence in the report to be out there in a more accessible form. What do Republicans want here?

LUCAS: For Republicans, they say this case is closed. It's time to move on. Status quo is a good thing for them. They're expected to emphasize the fact that Mueller - he did not charge anyone with conspiring with Russia. They're also expected to raise questions that we've heard a lot from them about over the past several months about the integrity of the investigation itself. They've been pushing allegations of political bias of Mueller's team. They've also alleged that the FBI committed surveillance abuses against the Trump campaign. We're likely to hear a lot more of that today.

INSKEEP: Ryan, thanks so much.

LUCAS: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: And we'll be listening for your reporting later today on NPR programs. It's NPR's Ryan Lucas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.
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