Ever since Attorney General William Barr sent a letter to Congress last month disclosing the “principal conclusions” of the Mueller report, many of the Trump administration’s critics have grown increasingly suspicious that Barr is working to protect the president from that report’s findings. Some Democratic lawmakers have gone so far as to accuse Barr of “hiding the ball” or perpetrating a “cover-up.” On Sunday, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler slammed Barr as “a biased defender of the administration”—comments that came just days after his committee voted to authorize him to subpoena the Justice Department for the full, unredacted Mueller report in case the public version proves unsatisfactory.
In response, Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, sent Nadler a letter on Monday, arguing that the committee should invite Mueller to testify about his work during the last week of April, after the redacted report comes out. Collins is a vocal Trump supporter and criticized House Democrats in early March for opening their own investigation into the president.
“If you seek both transparency and for the American public to learn the full contours of the Special Counsel’s investigation, public testimony from Special Counsel Mueller himself is undoubtedly the best way to accomplish this goal,” Collins wrote in his letter Monday. “While [Barr] can testify surrounding his decision to provide the Committee with principal conclusions, it is Special Counsel Mueller who is best-positioned to testify regarding the underlying facts and material in which you are so interested.”
Inviting Mueller to testify, Collins continued, would ensure “we will all hear the unfiltered truth from a man who conducted his investigation with integrity and professionalism.”
Nadler responded to Collins’ letter with a Monday afternoon tweet, agreeing to ask Mueller to come before the Committee but declining Collins’ request to hear from Mueller before Barr himself is scheduled to testify before Congress on May 2:
Today, Ranking Member Collins called for Special Counsel Mueller to appear before @HouseJudiciary. I fully agree. Special Counsel Mueller should come before the Committee to answer questions in public about his 22 month investigation into President Trump and his associates. 1/2
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) April 8, 2019
Politically, it makes sense that both Nadler and Collins would want to hear Mueller testify. Committee Democrats are likely jumping at the chance to pick over the report’s grislier details (whatever those might be) with Mueller himself—a potential cable-news soundbite bonanza. And Collins likely hopes he’ll be able to put concern about a “cover-up” to rest with two questions: “Do you believe that Attorney General Barr has deliberately worked to soften your report’s impact on President Trump, and does the public version of the report accurately represent the scope of your findings?” If Collins asks Mueller that, and Mueller endorses Barr’s handling of the probe, it’s hard to see how the cover-up theory could survive it.
If Mueller does testify publicly before the House Judiciary Committee, it will be the latest in a series of wildly hyped congressional hearings that have marked the the Trump presidency, from James Comey’s testimony to the Kavanaugh hearings and, most recently, Michael Cohen’s appearance before the House Oversight Committee. Like those hearings, this one is sure to be gripping. Unlike them, it actually stands a chance to offer a bit of national healing.