Top Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats

The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee considered a plan earlier this month that would have put Democrats on the record in their push to get special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE to testify before Congress.

During a closed-door GOP meeting, Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsHouse to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members GOP lawmaker: Schiff should be first witness Republicans call to testify in impeachment inquiry Hillicon Valley: Google buying Fitbit for .1B | US launches national security review of TikTok | Twitter shakes up fight over political ads | Dems push committee on 'revenge porn' law MORE (R-Ga.) floated the idea of introducing a resolution to subpoena Mueller during Democrats’ first high-profile hearing on the Russia report that featured Watergate star John Dean, multiple sources told The Hill.

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But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse Republicans prepare for public impeachment proceedings with mock hearing Live updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate MORE (R-Calif.) advised against proceeding with the approach, effectively stunting the proposed effort from moving forward, according to three GOP sources familiar with the discussions.

Since then, the House chairmen for the Intelligence and Judiciary committees have announced that Mueller will testify on Capitol Hill. He is slated to give public testimony before both panels on July 17.

Still, a subpoena resolution from a Republican several weeks ago would have undoubtedly caught Judiciary Democrats off-guard, putting them in a tight spot where they would be on record either for or against subpoenaing Mueller, a move Democrats at the time had yet to make amid some divisions.

But the GOP sources say McCarthy worried such a move would backfire.

“I think McCarthy thought it was the wrong move and would play against the effort at large,” according to a GOP source familiar with the matter, who said it “took a member-level meeting to bat down a plainly bad idea.”

Matt Sparks, McCarthy’s communications director, said in a statement: “The interaction described by anonymous and uninformed sources is wholly inaccurate.” Sparks did not respond to a request for comment to clarify whether a resolution was discussed.

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Collins and other top Republicans at the time had a week to decide how to respond to Democrats from when House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members As impeachment goes public, forget 'conventional wisdom' What this 'impeachment' is really about — and it's not the Constitution MORE (D-N.Y.) announced the Mueller report hearings to when the first hearing took place.

While planning discussions between members and House leaders often occur ahead of major hearings, the private talks about a possible Mueller subpoena resolution offer a glimpse into the options Republicans considered to counter Democrats, who are leading sprawling investigations into Trump and his administration.

Collins, who has repeatedly said he wants Mueller to testify, downplayed the subpoena resolution plan, telling The Hill “there’s been many considerations.”

A spokesperson for Collins declined to comment on the record about the potential resolution.

Asked last week if he shot down the resolution idea, McCarthy replied: “I don’t know anything about that.”

Three GOP sources said offering a Mueller resolution would have put Republicans on the same side as Democrats — an alignment that would be a bad GOP strategy, particularly because there are a growing number of Democrats voicing support for an impeachment inquiry.

“Secretly, a lot of us want to interview Bob Mueller,” a separate GOP source told The Hill before Tuesday night's announcement. “I think it would be good, but we don’t want to be agreeing with the Democrats on impeachment-related things because then it looks like Republicans and Democrats agree.”

A third Republican source said pulling in Mueller to testify before Congress runs counter to the messaging coming out of the White House: “No collusion, no obstruction. Case closed.” Doing so, the source said, would signal that Republicans don’t have all the information they need.

While Mueller said he did not find sufficient evidence to conclude there was a conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential race, the special counsel did not offer a determination as to whether the president obstructed justice.

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrHouse Democrats circulate memo rebutting GOP impeachment defense Barr to launch anti-gun violence initiative during public impeachment hearing Losing their religion: AG Barr should recognize the faith of progressives MORE and other Justice Department officials ultimately decided that the evidence in the report was not sufficient to charge the president with a crime.

Democrats, however, say that clearing Trump on obstruction was not Barr’s call to make and that it is their responsibility to conduct oversight and further examine the 10 episodes of possible obstruction of justice Mueller investigated.

Republicans have said they want to press Mueller on the origins of the Russia probe and allegations of impropriety.

As Democrats’ investigations get further underway and more of their members voice support for an impeachment inquiry, Republicans say their best strategy is to oppose Democrats’ oversight efforts.

As one GOP source put it: “From a strategy standpoint, I can’t think of a move [Democrats] would make that we wouldn’t oppose except to move on.”