Hoyer: Democrats should subpoena Mueller if necessary

Hoyer: Democrats should subpoena Mueller if necessary
© Stefani Reynolds

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerVulnerable Democrats feel heat ahead of impeachment vote The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — House Dems charge Trump with abuse, obstruction of Congress in impeachment articles Hoyer predicts impeachment vote next week MORE (D-Md.) said Tuesday that Democrats should insist on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE's appearance before Congress, even if it requires a subpoena. 

"I think he ought to testify. He may want a subpoena, for all I know," Hoyer said during his weekly press briefing in his Capitol office. "He indicated that his report speaks for itself. Very frankly ... questioning is an important fact-finding pursuit."

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Mueller said last week during brief remarks at the Justice Department that he hoped those statements — combined with his 448-page report — would be his last word on the topic. It was a clear indication that the former FBI chief — who's built a reputation for nonpartisanship over his long career in Washington — is hoping to avoid the political circus that would surely accompany his return to Capitol Hill.

But Democrats are fighting to secure his testimony, emphasizing the importance of hearing the author of the report elucidate its conclusions. Both Reps. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers Collins accusing Democrats of 'tearing down a world leader' GOP calls for minority hearing on impeachment, threatens procedural measures MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats seek leverage for trial Pence's office denies Schiff request to declassify call with Ukrainian leader Comey, Schiff to be interviewed by Fox's Chris Wallace MORE (D-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, are in negotiations with Mueller's team in an effort to secure the special counsel's testimony. 

Neither chairman has threatened to issue a subpoena since Mueller's remarks last week. Leaving a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic Caucus on Tuesday morning in the Capitol basement, Nadler declined to comment on the status of those talks, including whether he's eyeing a subpoena for Mueller.
Another Democratic lawmaker familiar with the talks said a major sticking point remains Mueller's reluctance to testify publicly, as Democrats are insisting. 
 
"We're trying to do everything possible to get him out in the open," said the lawmaker, who spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive negotiations.  
 
Democrats are also wary that Mueller will be unwilling to answer clarifying questions outside the literal text of his report, the lawmaker said.
 
"The concern is that Mueller is just going to sit there like a parrot and parrot the report," the lawmaker said. "And there's not going to be anything meaningfully new coming out of the testimony."

Hoyer on Tuesday suggested Mueller may actually want to be subpoenaed, implying the special counsel might benefit politically from the appearance he fought to avoid diving into the partisan battle that's erupted in Congress over the significance of Mueller's findings. 

"The Judiciary Committee, I know, is talking to Mr. Mueller and hopefully they'll reach an agreement," Hoyer said. "But he may want a subpoena, in which case I think we ought to issue a subpoena. And if he won't testify, I think we ought to issue a subpoena anyway, personally."

While Republicans have said the report clears President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE of all wrongdoing, Mueller was explicit in refusing to exonerate the president of committing obstruction of justice — a dynamic Democrats want to learn more about.  

Hoyer's comments arrive as Democrats struggle to secure requested documents and witness testimony related to Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling. Trump has vowed to fight "all the subpoenas," and the White House has asked a growing list of formal officials not to cooperate with the Democrats' probes. 

In response, the House next week will vote to hold several members of Trump's inner circle in contempt of Congress. The list includes Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrInspector general testifies on FBI failures: Five takeaways Budowsky: Would John McCain back impeachment? Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen asks judge to reduce sentence MORE, who has declined the Democrats' subpoena for Mueller's full, unredacted report and the underlying documentation; and former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who has defied a Democratic subpoena to appear before Congress.

Hoyer floated the idea that Democrats "might" add others to that list before next Tuesday's floor vote. He didn't provide names, but suggested it could include anyone who refuses to cooperate with the Democrats' investigations. 

"I see every name who's either refused to respond to a congressional subpoena or request for documents — or who has been instructed by the president not to respond — is subject to being on that list," he said. "I don't know all of them, so I'm not going to try to name all of them. ... We could go through a litany of names who have been in that category."