President Donald Trump said on Sunday that Robert Mueller “should not testify” before Congress, hours after a Democratic lawmaker confirmed that the House Judiciary Committee was still seeking to schedule a hearing with the special counsel for later this month.
“Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!” the president wrote on Twitter, after excoriating Mueller’s 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in a previous post.
“After spending more than $35,000,000 over a two year period, interviewing 500 people, using 18 Trump Hating Angry Democrats & 49 FBI Agents — all culminating in a more than 400 page Report showing NO COLLUSION — why would the Democrats in Congress now need Robert Mueller to testify,” Trumptweeted.
“Are they looking for a redo because they hated seeing the strong NO COLLUSION conclusion? There was no crime, except on the other side (incredibly not covered in the Report), and NO OBSTRUCTION,” the president added.
Attorney General William Barr previously told Congress that he has no objection to Mueller, who is a Justice Department employee, testifying before lawmakers. Peter Carr, the special counsel’s spokesman, declined to comment on the president’s tweet.
Earlier Sunday, a Judiciary Committee member, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), told “Fox News Sunday” that Mueller was tentatively scheduled to testify on May 15, but he later walked back that remark on social media.
“Just to clarify: we are aiming to bring Mueller in on the 15th, but nothing has been agreed to yet,” Cicilline wrote online. “That’s the date the Committee has proposed, and we hope the Special Counsel will agree to it. Sorry for the confusion.”
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has said the committee is eyeing May 15 for Mueller to testify. The committee did not immediately respond to Cicilline’s comments.
The White House, Cicilline said in the Fox interview, has indicated it would not interfere with Mueller’s attempt to testify and “we hope that won’t change.”
As recently as last month, the request for Mueller to appear before the House Judiciary Committee was bipartisan; the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, wrote to Nadler in April encouraging him to invite the special counsel to testify.
Trump’s tweet — if interpreted by the attorney general as a direct order to stifle Mueller’s testimony — could set up the most consequential legal question related to the special counsel’s probe: whether executive privilege can be used to stop an executive branch employee from testifying about an investigation into the president.
The president’s post also aggravates a partisan fight over Mueller’s findings that was already under way Sunday morning when Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) criticized the special counsel for not revealing sooner that he had not found that the Trump campaign and the Kremlin criminally conspired to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.
“It couldn’t have taken Bob Mueller that long to find that out,” King told a New York radio show. “The reports we get are that they knew a year ago there was no collusion. Well, didn’t he have an obligation to tell the president of the United States that? To let the world know?”
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, later tweeted a news report on King’s comments, adding: “More evidence that Mueller probe was part of a political plan,ie., insurance policy, to remove or hurt @realDonaldTrump. They failed because people wouldn’t lie.”
It is possible that Mueller could also appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, after Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked him in a letter Friday whether he “would like to provide testimony regarding any misrepresentation” by Barr concerning an exchange he had with the attorney general about the special counsel’s report.
Barr already faces a torrent of criticism from congressional Democrats after his testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. At that hearing, he was grilled by lawmakers about a letter he received from Mueller that expressed disagreement with the way the Justice Department handled the release of the special counsel’s report.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused Barr of committing a crime by lying to Congress about similar concerns by Mueller’s investigators, and Nadler on Friday threatened to hold Barr in contempt of Congress if he did not grant access to Mueller’s unredacted report and its underlying documents by Monday morning.
The scrutiny of Barr is likely to intensify in the coming days, as Democratic lawmakers await a potential response from the attorney general to the president’s tweet.
The issue of executive privilege has featured prominently in debates concerning Mueller’s report since the special counsel concluded his investigation in mid-March and submitted his findings to the attorney general later that month.
Trump waived the privilege during the probe, allowing former White House counsel Don McGahn and other figures in his administration to cooperate with Mueller’s team of federal prosecutors. But it is now unclear whether the president will try to assert the power to block those officials from publicly testifying.
Asked on Wednesday whether he had any objections to McGahn appearing before Congress, Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee that McGahn was “a close adviser to the president” and remarked: “We haven’t waived executive privilege.”
Trump said Thursday that he did not want McGahn to testify.
“Congress shouldn‘t be looking anymore,” the president told Fox News. “This is all. It‘s done.”