August 24, 2019

Mueller Hearings on Wednesday Present Make-or-Break Moment for Democrats

Mueller Hearings on Wednesday Present Make-or-Break Moment for Democrats


Knowing that Mr. Mueller is unlikely to take the bait on more explosive questions, Democrats see their role as coaxing him through some of the most damaging passages of his report.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will have the first opportunity, and they intend to dwell heavily on five of the most glaring episodes of possible obstruction of justice that Mr. Mueller documented in the second volume of his report. They include Mr. Trump’s direction to the former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II to fire Mr. Mueller and then publicly lie about it; his request that Corey Lewandowski, a former campaign chief, ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reassert control of the investigation and limit its scope; and possible witness tampering to discourage two aides, Paul Manafort and Michael D. Cohen, from cooperating with investigators.

Many lawmakers, including Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, view the behavior in at least some of those episodes as reaching the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors, established in the Constitution as grounds for impeachment. They will try to solicit Mr. Mueller’s views — tacitly or explicitly.

“The overwhelming majority of the American people are unfamiliar with the principal conclusions of the Mueller report, so that will be a starting point,” Mr. Jeffries said. “To the extent that Bob Mueller can explain his conclusions, particularly as it relates to possible criminal culpability of the president, that will be compelling information.”

Democrats on the Intelligence Committee will use the second hearing to highlight evidence from the report’s first volume about Russia’s social media disinformation and hacking operations during the 2016 campaign and high-profile contacts between Trump associates and Russians offering assistance to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

Republicans are expressing little concern about the Democrats’ strategy. Mr. Mueller’s style and his prosecutorial conclusions will “blow up in their face,” said Representative Steve Chabot, Republican of Ohio, who helped prosecute the impeachment case against Mr. Clinton.

“Back then, Starr came out pretty clearly and said that he felt there were impeachable offenses that had been committed,” Mr. Chabot said. “Now we have a special counsel who, at this point, is saying no. We invested so much time and money and taxpayer dollars in this that we should give considerable weight in that.”



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