Tag Archives: House Judiciary Committee

If I could ask Mueller one question …

I want to look for a moment past the Democratic primary presidential debate that’s coming up. My attention at the moment is riveted on an upcoming appearance by Robert Mueller before the U.S. House Judiciary and Select Intelligence committees.

He is going to make public statements before both panels and then will take questions in private. He is going to talk to the nation about the conclusions he reached regarding Donald Trump’s involvement with Russians who attackedĀ  our electoral system during the 2016 presidential campaign.

He concluded that the president’s campaign did not conspire to collude with the Russians who dug up dirt on Hillary Clinton. He also said that despite evidence of obstruction of justice, he declined to issue a formal complaint against the president; he left that resolution up to Congress. He said in that nine-minute statement he read a few weeks ago that rules and policy prohibited him from indicting a “sitting president.”

I heard this notion come from a former federal prosecutor, but I’ll appropriate it here in this blog. I want the former special counsel to answer this question:

If you were not constrained by Office of Legal Counsel rules and prohibitions against indicting a president, would you have indicted Donald Trump on charges that he obstructed justice?

Mueller can answer such an inquiry any number of ways. If he says “no,” that he wouldn’t have indicted the president, well, that statement would stand on its own.

However, were he to provide an answer that stops short of a flat “no,” he well might say something like this, “I will not respond to a hypothetical circumstance. I deal only with what I know.”

Then again, the former FBI director could answer “yes, I would have issued an indictment.” Suppose, though, he demurs with the “hypothetical” non-answer, that opens the door to supposition that he doesn’t want to reveal his desire — under that circumstance — to file a formal complaint against the president of the United States.

You want high political drama in a congressional hearing room? Robert Mueller’s decision to appear before two key House committees in response to a subpoena is about to deliver it.

I am waiting with bated breath.

Waiting to hear from the former special counsel

I know what I will be doing on the 17th of July.

I will be watching TV as former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III talks to two key congressional committees about that Russia investigation he conducted for 22 months.

Yep. The special counsel, who vowed to be finished talking publicly about it, is going to speak in public, in the open and on the record to the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees.

For those of us with a keen interest in what Mueller concluded, this will be — to borrow a phrase — a “must-see TV” event.

The committees had to subpoena Mueller to talk to them. Mueller agreed. Now, the question will center on how much Mueller will divulge that he hasn’t already done in his 448-page report, which he filed some month ago.

Mueller appeared just recently a few weeks back to declare that he didn’t “exonerate” Donald Trump of obstructing justice, and that he had found reason to clear the president, he “would have said so.” Trump, of course, spun that declaration into something unrecognizable, saying he had been cleared of “collusion” and “obstruction of justice.”

Well, now we will get to hear more from Mueller, the former FBI director, a career prosecutor, a meticulous legal eagle and a man of impeccable integrity. That won’t dissuade, of course, Republican committee pipsqueaks from seeking to discredit this dedicated public servant.

Mueller probably is unhappy about getting the subpoena. However, he knows that he must adhere to it, unlike the president of the United States, who has blocked aides and senior advisers from speaking to congressional inquisitors.

I will look forward to what this man has to say.

Dean testimony provides a preview of what we might see

John Dean sat before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee today to offer the panel some historical context. He wasn’t there as a “fact witness” with specific knowledge of the matters involving Donald Trump’s conduct during the most recent presidential campaign.

However, he was there to provide some historical perspective gleaned from his role as White House counsel during the Watergate scandal of 1973-74.

I agree that Dean was a dubious “expert,” given his own culpability in the crimes committed during President Nixon’s administration.

However, we might have gotten a preview of what we could expect if the House Judiciary panel decides to launch a full-blown impeaching proceeding against Donald Trump.

What might that include? It might — indeed, it likely will — include Republicans on the panel who will seek to denigrate the credibility of every Trump critic who seeks to make the case for impeaching the president.

We heard it today from GOP members who sought to ridicule Dean’s appearance. By “ridicule,” I mean to suggest that they inferred that since Dean wasn’t there to discuss the “facts” of the Trump matter, they would ask him questions about subjects that had nothing to do with the issues at hand. They sought to suggest that as a convicted felon who lost his law license he had no credibility on anything.

Did we hear anyone of the GOP members defending Donald Trump’s character? Did they speak to the president’s honesty, his integrity, his courage, his commitment to public service?

Umm. I didn’t hear it. Did you?

What I heard was an effort to denigrate, disparage and disrespect a witness who took an oath to tell those members of Congress the truth.

I believe it’s good to keep this conduct in mind if the House Judiciary Committee decides to launch impeachment proceedings yet again.

What does John Dean know about all of this?

John Dean was a key player in the previous great constitutional crisis facing the United States of America.

He served as White House counsel during the Nixon administration. He went before the Senate Watergate Committee and declared there was a “cancer growing” on the presidency. The nation got all worked up over that testimony.

Dean eventually would be convicted of crimes and would serve time in prison for his role in covering up the Watergate scandal.

So what does the House Judiciary Committee, which plans this week to open more hearings on the current crisis? It’s going to summon John Dean to testify about what he knows about Robert Mueller’s findings on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

That’s it! A former Watergate-related criminal is going to talk to us about an investigation into which he has next to zero personal knowledge.

Robert Mueller concluded his probe into alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russians who hacked into our electoral system. He said Trump didn’t “conspire” to collude; he left the door open on matters relating to obstruction of justice.

Dean has expressed dismay at Mueller’s findings. He has emerged as a Trump critic. So, on that score I’m on his side.

Still, my questions remain: What does John Dean bring to this matter? What unique expertise does he have? What is the Judiciary Committee going to hear from Dean that it hasn’t already heard from other peanut-gallery spectators?

Here’s a thought: Forget about Dean and bring Mueller himself to Capitol Hill.

Mueller wants to talk … in private

U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler made news last night by revealing that special counsel Robert Mueller wants to talk to the committee, but in private, behind closed doors, no media, no cameras, no members of the public.

My first reaction was to say, “Hold on! You need to talk to us, Mr. Special Counsel, about how you concluded that the president of the United States didn’t conspire to collude with Russians who attacked our electoral system and how you couldn’t ‘exonerate’ him of obstruction of justice.”

Then I thought about it.

Mueller, a former FBI director and a man known to be a serious lawyer of the highest integrity, said he doesn’t want to star in a media spectacle. He wants to be able to talk candidly with the House panel, which will release a full — and I presume unredacted — transcript of his testimony.

In my version of worldly perfection, I want Mueller to sit before the nation and talk to us directly. I also know I cannot dictate how these things should be handled.

I barely can remember what Mueller’s voice sounds like, it’s been so long since he’s been heard in public. During the 22 months he probed the issue of collusion with the Russian election hackers, he remained steadfast in his silence. Meanwhile, Donald Trump was all over the place, proclaiming the investigation to be nothing but a “witch hunt” led by “18 angry Democrats.” Trump has continued to make a total ass of himself, but Mueller has kept his silence — mostly.

He did write that letter complaining about the way Attorney General William Barr described the nature of Mueller’s findings.

I want to respect Mueller’s intention to stay out of the political spotlight. Lord knows committee members from both parties would do their share of posturing and pontificating once the TV cameras clicked on. Mueller sounds as if he wants no part of that charade.

If the Judiciary chairman is correct and Mueller agrees to talk to the committee in private, then my sincere hope is that we’ll be able to see the complete transcript immediately.

That is, unless Mueller changes his mind and decides to talk openly in front of the nation that has paid a hefty price for a serious investigation into whether the president is a crook.

What does ‘contempt of Congress’ really mean?

I have to acknowledge that I do not have a clue what lawmakers are going to do to enforce a recommended contempt of Congress citation against Attorney General William Barr.

The House Judiciary Committee issued the recommendation this week; the full House will have to vote on it. What happens then?

A contempt of Congress citation doesn’t have the same legal impact as a contempt of court citation. If someone defies a judge or doesn’t show up to, say, testify in a court proceeding, there are legal remedies at the court’s disposal. The judge can issue a warrant for the arrest of that individual.

What can Congress do to enforce what is in effect a political argument? Does it have the authority to arrest the attorney general? Does it go to court to settle it once and for all?

My sense is that the House Judiciary Committee is setting the table for a monstrous political battle royale between the legislative and executive branches of government. Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler is stone-faced and grim as he discusses this matter. He accuses Barr — likely at Donald Trump’s insistence — of usurping Congress’s constitutional authority to conduct oversight of the executive branch.

Nadler is having none of that. But . . . what about his Republican colleagues? They appear ready to cede their own power to the chief executive, who is instructing his White House staff to ignore every single demand placed on them by Congress.

A contempt of Congress citation could turn into a battle for the soul of our government. Or, as it did in 2012 when congressional Republicans cited AG Eric Holder for contempt over the “fast and furious” gun-sale program, it could sputter and fizzle into oblivion.

My sense is that Jerrold Nadler — with the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — is getting ready to rumble.

Must-see TV on tap: Mueller negotiating a deal to talk

Now we might get to hear from The Big Man Himself.

Robert S. Mueller III reportedly is working out arrangements what will enable him to testify before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. Mueller? Oh, he’s just the special counsel whose work has been in all the papers.

He crafted a 448-page report after completing a 22-month investigation into whether Donald Trump’s campaign for president colluded with Russians who hacked into our electoral system.

Mueller didn’t find any conspiracy to collude. Oh, but he did leave the door wide open for Congress to look into whether the president obstructed justice in the hunt for the truth.

Attorney General William Barr spoke for hours this week to the Senate Judiciary Committee but then stiffed the House Judiciary panel by being a no-show. Let’s recall, too, that he disparaged a letter that Mueller wrote that complained about the four-page summary that Barr issued in advance of the full (albeit redacted) report.

So, what’s on tap?

I am guessing that we’re going to hear from Mueller himself why he reached the conclusions he reached. This is the stuff that Barr said he hadn’t even read prior to issuing his own summary of Mueller’s full report.

I also am guessing that the date and time of Mueller’s testimony, once it is released, will be etched on scratch paper, logged into cellphone calendars across the nation. I’ll bet real money that the TV ratings will be sky-high . . . which, of course, is something that always gets Donald Trump’s attention.

And I hardly can wait to hear Trump’s response to what Mueller will tell the nation.

I do hope the special counsel can work this out with the House Judiciary Committee. A nation is waiting with bated breath to get closer to the bottom of the mess that Donald Trump has created.

What? Lawyers shouldn’t be allowed to ask AG key questions?

U.S. Attorney General William Barr will be a no-show Thursday at the House Judiciary Committee hearing.

The AG doesn’t want to be quizzed by committee staff lawyers, which is what Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler had planned for his testimony.

Hey, wait a second!

Let’s recall the confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. A woman had come forward and accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were both much younger. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which conducted the hearing, decided to punt on questioning the woman, Christine Ford, who testified before the panel.

Committee Republicans handed off the questioning of Ford to — are you ready for it? — staff lawyers!

So, what was good enough for an accuser testifying at that earlier hearing ought to be good enough for the attorney general. Isn’t that fair?

What’s more, Congress is entitled under Article I of the U.S. Constitution to set its own rules for the way it conducts its hearings. That decision doesn’t rest with those who testify before a congressional panel.

Thus, Attorney General William Barr is reaching way beyond his grasp in declaring he won’t appear before the House Judiciary Committee.

Barr squanders the benefit of the doubt

I’ll be honest. I was willing to give Attorney General William Barr the benefit of the doubt when he released the redacted report compiled by special counsel Robert Mueller into whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians and/or obstructed justice in the search for the truth.

No longer.

Today’s hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee told me something I was reluctant to accept: that Barr is seeking to provide cover for Donald Trump and shield him from those in Congress who want to impeach the president of the United States of America.

I fear the worst may be unfolding before our eyes.

Barr’s dodge-ball game with Senate inquisitors today tells me that his harshest critics are correct. He cannot be an impartial referee in this ongoing investigation into whether Donald Trump — at the very least — attempted to obstruct efforts to derail Mueller’s exhaustive investigation.

This wasn’t a good day for William Barr, who I should add has declared that he will not appear Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee. The committee chairman, Jerrold Nadler, said he believes Barr is “afraid” to be questioned. He has accused Barr of attempting to “blackmail” the House panel.

I’ve said all this, however, while standing behind a desire to avoid impeaching the president until this congressional probe is completed.

Impeachment plays into Donald Trump’s strengths. He will use such an effort to rally his base. There remain some more traps to run before we to get to that drastic point. There damn sure needs to be some signal that Senate Republicans would be willing to convict the president in a trial should an impeachment resolution clear the House of Representatives.

However, the AG did not help his political benefactor — the president — with his lame obfuscations.

The drama continues.

AG walking dangerous line if he refuses to talk

I want to offer Attorney General William Barr a slice of unsolicited advice.

Do not, Mr. AG, follow through on your threat to be a no-show before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee later this week. If you do so, sir, you open the door a bit wider leading to a possible impeachment of the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.

Barr is considering staying away from the House committee, which wants to question him regarding his handling of Robert Mueller’s report into alleged collusion and obstruction by Trump’s campaign in 2016.

The AG apparently doesn’t like what he senses will be a tough grilling by the panel, which is controlled by Democrats. There are some provisions being built in to questioning, forcing Barr to possibly stay away.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says he’ll have a hearing anyway, with or without the attorney general.

Look, I don’t want the House to impeach the president at least until it has completed its own investigation into some of the questions that Mueller left unanswered when he released his findings.

The impeachment train might become a runaway vehicle, though, if Barr stonewalls the House.

Don’t do it, Mr. Attorney General. Sit before the panel and answer the questions to the best of your substantial ability.