Robert Mueller To Testify Publicly Before 2 House Panels In July
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Robert Mueller's only public statement about his 448-page report was brief.
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ROBERT MUELLER: 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.
INSKEEP: And Mueller added this as he summarized his conclusions about Russia's support for President Trump's election and the president's efforts to block the investigation.
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MUELLER: Now, I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner.
INSKEEP: Nope. We now know it will not be the only time, just the first time. In response to a subpoena, Mueller will take questions from two House committees. One of them is the House Intelligence Committee chaired by Adam Schiff of California.
Congressman, welcome back to the program.
ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you. It's great to be with you.
INSKEEP: What are the conditions under which Mueller agreed to talk?
SCHIFF: Well, we have him for the day before the two committees. It'll be back-to-back. We have a staff as well, so we arranged for him to come in to the Intelligence Committee. He will go through a hearing that is long enough for each of the members in regular order to ask questions of the special counsel, and then we'll have a - and that'll be an open session, then we'll have a private session with a couple of his staff to answer matters that may not be appropriate that may involve an ongoing case or something - some other matter that cannot be discussed in open session.
INSKEEP: Is there any question that he has asked not to be asked or that you've agreed not to ask or that he knows he can refuse to ask?
SCHIFF: We haven't agreed on any questions being off-limits. You know, he has made it clear that he wants to try to confine his remarks to the written page or the four corners of his report. We don't think that that's an appropriate limitation. Certainly, the attorney general has felt free to speak well beyond the report and, indeed, mischaracterized the report, so there are a set of questions that we have that go beyond what's in that written document. There may be some disagreement about that. And there may be questions that he gets where he wishes to answer those in closed session, and that's something we're just going to have to navigate as we go.
INSKEEP: Yeah, it sounds like he does have an out there. He can say this is too sensitive to speak about in public. But let's suppose that he manages to do what he has said he wants to do, which is stay within the confines of the report, essentially just repeat that to you in a different form. Is that worth it to you?
SCHIFF: Look; I think it's very important for the American people to hear directly from him. We're going to try again to have him answer all the questions that we have and not be set by some artificial limitation, but it's important that the facts be brought to life. This was a president who, through his campaign, had multiple - over a hundred contacts with the Russians, some of which still are inexplicable, that we want to ask him about. We want to ask him about some of the limitations on the investigation, some evidence that he was not able to obtain, the text messages and emails that were destroyed, people whose testimony was deeply inconsistent in our committee and before his investigators. And we have questions about perjury, we have questions about the obstruction of justice issues, which will predominantly be handled, I think, in the Judiciary Committee while we focus on the issue of conspiracy.
INSKEEP: You know, the investigation did find no reason to charge the president or people around him with criminal conspiracy. Do you think Mueller got that wrong?
SCHIFF: We have questions about that. In particular, the Trump Tower New York meeting where the Russians offered, through an intermediary, dirt on Hillary Clinton, dirt on Donald Trump's opponent as what they described as the Russian government's effort to help Mr. Trump. And as the court acknowledges, his son, Don Jr., accepted that offer. And they had an overt act in furtherance of that conspiracy in Trump Tower. So, yes, we have questions about why that did not satisfy the elements of the crime of conspiracy. But even beyond that, we have serious questions about how people around the president or the president himself may be compromised by financial interests, the so-called counterintelligence concerns that are not included in the report but are alluded to in the report.
INSKEEP: Mr. Chairman, is your goal to build the evidence that could make the case for an eventual impeachment inquiry?
SCHIFF: Our goal is to fully flesh out the facts for the American people and also to determine what was left undone. There is some profound question about whether Mueller was allowed to follow the money. Was there any investigation into potential Russian money laundering or did he or Rod Rosenstein decide that was beyond the scope of what he could look at? Our mission, really, is to make sure we protect the country - as we do (ph).
INSKEEP: The president did make public statements about his finances being a red line. You're asking, did Mueller actually observe that red line?
SCHIFF: That's exactly right because if he did, it means that these allegations went uninvestigated and could pose a continuing threat of compromise to the American people.
INSKEEP: Granting that there's a lot of details and you've given some of them, Doug Collins, your Republican counterpart at the top of the Intelligence Committee, issued a statement in which he said he hopes that Mueller's testimony will give Democrats, quote, "the closure that the rest of America has enjoyed for months." Granting again that you have details that you want to know, is it fair to say that you already know the essence of what Mueller has to say?
SCHIFF: Well, we certainly know what he has to say in the report, but there's a great deal unsaid in the report that goes to fundamental issues of compromise. And our deep concern is - is the U.S. policy towards Russia or other countries driven by the national interests or is it driven by a financial or other interest that is undisclosed? And that's the predominant concern we have in the intel committee, the Judiciary Committee, where Collins serves as a predominant interest in whether the president committed the crime of obstruction of justice. And that's not an answer that you get from a single witness, so I think Mr. Collins' hope in one hearing is misplaced.
INSKEEP: Congressman, thanks so much.
SCHIFF: Thank you very much.
INSKEEP: Adam Schiff is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. NPR's justice reporter Ryan Lucas has been listening along with us. Ryan, what did you learn?
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Well, I found it interesting that, one, the congressman dodged the question of impeachment. That's something that, of course, House leadership, including Chairman Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have been reluctant to head down that path. That remains consistent. What I found interesting, though, was the congressman talking about getting into what was left undone, what was left on the cutting room floor, the question of following the money. That's something that chairmanship in his committee has been particularly interested in since they took over the majority in the House. This is something that, as you noted, the president has been very sensitive about. He called his finances a red line. It seems like eliciting information from Mueller, if perhaps that is an untapped avenue of investigation, is something that the Democrats are looking to get.
INSKEEP: So the question is - did you follow the money and find nothing of concern or did you not follow the money? That's the question.
LUCAS: And it sounds like, for the Democrats, if Mueller was not able to follow the money, that's something that they really want to dig into.
INSKEEP: Are there Democrats - there are Democrats who are perhaps divided on the question of impeachment, right? Some want to go, some don't want to go.
LUCAS: Absolutely. There's a growing number of Democrats in the rank and file who do want to do that, but, again, the leadership remains against opening impeachment proceedings.
INSKEEP: NPR's Ryan Lucas, thanks so much.
LUCAS: Thank you.
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