Hoyer: Democrats should subpoena Mueller if necessary

Hoyer: Democrats should subpoena Mueller if necessary
© Stefani Reynolds

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Liberal Democrat eyes aid cuts to Israel after Omar, Tlaib denied entry Lawmakers blast Trump as Israel bars door to Tlaib and Omar MORE (D-Md.) said Tuesday that Democrats should insist on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony 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 NadlerGOP memo deflects some gun questions to 'violence from the left' House Democrats urge Trump to end deportations of Iraqis after diabetic man's death French officials call for investigation of Epstein 'links with France' MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Schiff offers bill to make domestic terrorism a federal crime New intel chief inherits host of challenges 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 TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems 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 BarrThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries Mueller report fades from political conversation Barr removes prisons chief after Epstein death 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."