Schiff: Mueller can answer 'a great many questions' beyond his report

Schiff: Mueller can answer 'a great many questions' beyond his report
© House Intelligence Committee

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTop intelligence community lawyer leaving position Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump MORE (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that lawmakers “look forward” to Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s testimony, despite the special counsel’s stated reluctance to testify on Capitol Hill.

"We look forward to Mueller's testimony before Congress. While I understand his reluctance to answer hypotheticals or deviate from the carefully worded conclusions he drew on his charging decisions, there are, nevertheless, a great many questions he can answer that go beyond the report, including any counterintelligence issues and classified matters that were not addressed in his findings," Schiff said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, Mueller made his first public remarks since beginning his now-completed investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He reiterated some of the findings from his 448-page report and explained in further detail why he did not reach a decision on whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister MORE obstructed justice.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mueller also made clear that he does not want to testify before Congress — something Democrats have demanded — and that he expects his public remarks on Wednesday to be his last regarding the 22-month investigation.

“I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak about this matter. I am making that decision myself — no one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter,” Mueller said. “The report is my testimony.”

Schiff’s panel, along with the House Judiciary Committee, has sought Mueller’s testimony as Democratic lawmakers pursue their own investigations into Trump and his administration.

If Mueller resists congressional testimony, Democrats could subpoena him — an option House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Nadler demands answers from Barr on 'new channel' for receiving Ukraine info from Giuliani Trump predicts Ocasio-Cortez will launch primary bid against Schumer MORE (D-N.Y.) has said is on the table.

But Nadler sidestepped questions about that possibility during a news conference Wednesday, saying, “Mr. Mueller told us a lot of what we need to hear today.”

The Judiciary panel has sought public testimony from Mueller. However, he would likely testify before the Intelligence panel behind closed doors, as lawmakers are likely to question him about sensitive details of his investigation and contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Schiff on Wednesday also said Mueller issued a “direct rebuke” of Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump says he has 'total confidence' in Barr In defense of William Barr Trump suggests he may sue over Mueller investigation MORE by stating that he was unable to consider whether to charge Trump with criminal obstruction because Justice Department policy prohibits prosecutors from indicting a sitting president.

“After that investigation, if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” Mueller said in his remarks, without noting whether he would have charged Trump with a crime were it not for the policy.

Mueller also said the Constitution “requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.”

Barr has previously said Mueller did not fail to reach a decision on obstruction solely because of the the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion. Some Democrats and Trump critics have said Mueller's statement Wednesday undercut Barr's earlier pronouncements.

However, in a joint statement Wednesday evening, spokespeople for both the Justice Department and Mueller's office said there was "no conflict" between the two officials' statements.

“The Attorney General has previously stated that the Special Counsel repeatedly affirmed that he was not saying that, but for the OLC opinion, he would have found the President obstructed justice," said DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec and special counsel spokesman Peter Carr.

"The Special Counsel’s report and his statement today made clear that the office concluded it would not reach a determination – one way or the other – about whether the President committed a crime. There is no conflict between these statements," they said.

The Russia report compiled by Mueller and his team examined nearly a dozen episodes in which Trump may have obstructed justice, but the special counsel’s office did not reach a conclusion on the matter. In a four-page memo laying out Mueller’s findings in March, Barr said that he and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinGraham requests interviews with DOJ, FBI officials as part of probe into Russia investigation DOJ won't charge former FBI Deputy Director McCabe Rosenstein says he authorized release of Strzok-Page texts MORE judged the evidence to be insufficient to accuse Trump of a crime.

Trump and his allies have seized on Barr’s judgment as vindicating him of allegations of obstruction, even as Mueller’s report does not explicitly exonerate Trump.

“[Mueller] made clear that, because of the Department's own policy, it is left it to Congress—not the Attorney General—to evaluate and further investigate the president's misconduct,” Schiff said Wednesday.

Updated 7:26 p.m.