Case opened: Democrats begin public airing of Mueller report

Monday, June 10, 2019

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says it's "case closed." But Democrats are just getting started with Robert Mueller.

House Democrats have scheduled a series of hearings this week on the special counsel's report as they intensify focus on the Russia probe and pick up the pace on an investigative "path" — in the words of Speaker Nancy Pelosi — that some of them hope leads to impeachment of the president.

In doing so, they are trying to draw the public's attention on the allegations that Trump sought to obstruct a federal investigation and they want to highlight his campaign's contacts with Russia in the 2016 election.

And they will lay the groundwork for an appearance from Mueller himself, despite his stated desire to avoid the spotlight .

The hearings will focus on the two main topics of Mueller's report, obstruction of justice and Russian election interference.

The House Judiciary Committee plans to cover the first topic at a Monday hearing on "presidential obstruction and other crimes." The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday intends to review the counterintelligence implications of the Russian meddling. Mueller said there was not enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, but he said he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction.

On Tuesday, the House has scheduled a vote to authorize contempt cases against Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Donald McGahn for failing to comply with subpoenas from the Democratic-controlled House.

Barr defied a subpoena to provide an unredacted version of Mueller's report, along with underlying evidence. McGahn has defied subpoenas to provide documents and testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

Language in the resolution would make it easier for committee chairmen to take the Trump administration to court. Those chairmen could take legal action to enforce subpoenas in the future without a vote of the full House, so long as the chairmen have approval from a five-person, bipartisan group where Democrats have the majority.

With Trump pledging that "we're fighting all the subpoenas," Democratic leaders want to avoid repeated floor votes on contempt resolutions that detract from their legislative agenda.

The procession of hearings and votes this week is designed to mollify anxious Democrats who have pushed Pelosi, D-Calif., to begin impeachment immediately. Pelosi has so far rejected that option, preferring a slower, more methodical approach to investigating the president, including the court fights and hearings.

Pelosi made the case last week that she would rather see Trump voted out of office and "in prison" than merely impeached, according to a report in Politico. A person familiar with the exchange confirmed the account to The Associated Press.

The latest approach appears to have temporarily satisfied the restless House Democrats.

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who pleaded with Pelosi last month to start an inquiry, said the votes and hearings are going to be enough, for now, as they wait to see what happens in court.

Rep. David Cicilline, a Judiciary Committee member who favors an impeachment inquiry, took pains to avoid separating himself from top Democrats such as Pelosi.

"We should never proceed with impeachment for political reasons. We should never refuse to proceed with impeachment for political reasons," Cicilline, D-R.I., said on "Fox News Sunday."

Educating the American public on the Mueller report is a priority for Democrats, who believe Trump and his allies have created the public impression that the report said there was no obstruction of justice. Trump has made that assertion repeatedly.

The special counsel did not find evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump's campaign and Russia. But the report details multiple contacts between the two.

California Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the goal of the Wednesday hearing will be to explain to the American people "the serious counterintelligence concerns raised by the Mueller report, examine the depth and breadth of the unethical and unpatriotic conduct it describes, and produce prescriptive remedies to ensure that this never happens again."

Republicans are poised to defend the president at the hearings and challenge Democrats on the decision not to open impeachment hearings.

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins sent Nadler a letter Friday calling the upcoming hearing a "mock impeachment hearing" and warning Democrats to be civil when speaking of the president. He said "it is out of order for a member of Congress, in debate, “to express an opinion, even a third party opinion, accusing the president of a crime. The rules are clear on this point."

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