Key lawmakers to watch at Mueller hearing

Key lawmakers to watch at Mueller hearing
© Greg Nash

House lawmakers from across the political spectrum will finally get a chance to grill former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) 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 on Wednesday about his two-year investigation.

Mueller will face lawmakers from the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees in back-to-back hearings months after the release of his report, which did not find enough evidence to show the Trump campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

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It separately did not reach a conclusion on whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpUPS, FedEx shut down calls to handle mail-in ballots, warn of 'significant' problems: report Controversial GOP Georgia candidate attempts to distance from QAnon Trump orders TikTok parent company to sell US assets within 90 days MORE obstructed the investigation, though it pointedly declined to “exonerate” the president.

Here are 10 key players to watch.

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBy questioning Barr, Democrats unmasked their policy of betrayal Chris Wallace: Barr hearing 'an embarrassment' for Democrats: 'Just wanted to excoriate him' Apple posts blowout third quarter MORE (D-N.Y.)

Nadler, who will be the first lawmaker to question Mueller, is under enormous pressure to ensure that Wednesday is a success for his party.

He’s looking for a smooth hearing and to elicit answers from Mueller in a way that will reverberate with the American public.

The hearing could be a turning point on impeachment, depending on how dramatically the day goes. Nadler explicitly acknowledged earlier this month that “articles of impeachment are under consideration as part of the Committee’s investigation, although no final determination has been made.”

He and other Democrats are hoping the hearing breathes life into the Mueller report, which Democrats have repeatedly noted that most Americans have not read.

But Nadler and other Democrats are also being careful about setting expectations.

“We hope it won’t end up being a dud,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.)

The top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who will lead the GOP’s counternarrative on Wednesday, has the key role for his party.

He told Fox News over the weekend that the GOP strategy will hinge on questions about the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and what he described as the “corrupt cabal” of agents that worked on it. 

Republicans have long argued that the agents who worked on the investigation in its infancy were motivated by bias against Trump’s candidacy, pointing to anti-Trump text messages exchanged by two of the FBI officials.

They have also raised questions about the so-called Steele dossier, a compendium put together by a former British spy containing unverified allegations about Trump and Russia, and the political leanings of Mueller’s investigators.

Intelligence Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffNewsom says he has already received a number of pitches for Harris's open Senate seat Here's who could fill Kamala Harris's Senate seat if she becomes VP Democrats ramp up warnings on Russian election meddling MORE (D-Calif.)

The former prosecutor will oversee Mueller’s second two-hour hearing on Capitol Hill, where Democrats are intent on highlighting the numerous contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

They want to put a spotlight on the Trump campaign’s willingness to accept Russia’s help, something they think was made clear in Mueller’s report. 

Schiff argues the report presents a “damning set of facts” that has been glossed over by Trump and Attorney General William BarrBill BarrEx-FBI lawyer Clinesmith to plead guilty in Durham probe Barr says some results on probe into Russia investigation could be released before election Hillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations MORE, both of whom say it vindicates Trump on allegations of “collusion.”

Schiff has also raised alarm about the national security implications of Trump and his associates’ dealings with Russia, which could be a point of focus.

Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesSunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline MORE (R-Calif.)

Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, has been a prominent defender of Trump and a vocal critic of the special counsel and his probe.

He nicknamed the special counsel’s report the “Mueller dossier” and claimed at a hearing last month that its purpose was to “help Democrats impeach the president.”

Nunes has proven a controversial figure. He was forced to step away from leading the committee’s original Russia probe after the Ethics Committee started examining allegations he had revealed classified information. Nunes was cleared in December 2017. 

Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenDemocrats accuse Barr of helping Trump distract from coronavirus State and local officials beg Congress to send more election funds ahead of November FEC commissioner resigns, leaving agency without a quorum again MORE (D-Calif.)

Lofgren is the sole House Democrat to serve on Capitol Hill during two previous high-profile impeachment inquiries.

She was a Judiciary staffer in 1974, when the panel prepared articles of impeachment against then-President Nixon. Years later, she was a member of Congress when the GOP-controlled House voted to impeach then-President Clinton in 1998 — a move she fiercely opposed.

Now, Lofgren is one of the few Judiciary members cautioning against moving toward impeachment.

Lofgren told the Los Angeles Times last month that the evidence produced in the Mueller report has not yet reached the threshold for impeachment met during the Nixon Watergate scandal.

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Ratcliffe is the only Republican on both panels interrogating Mueller and is considered a star cross-examiner in his conference.

A former U.S. attorney and federal terrorism prosecutor, Ratcliffe’s profile rose last year during the joint GOP-led probe into FBI decisionmaking during the 2016 presidential election.

GOP leadership has conferred with Ratcliffe on strategy, and in past hearings members have deferred extra time to Ratcliffe.

He has also popped into hearings on panels where he is not a member to offer advice during high-profile witness interviews, as he did during the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s hearing with former Trump lawyer Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenMichael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Ocasio-Cortez challenges Trump to release college transcript The Hill's 12:30 Report: White House, Dems debate coronavirus relief package MORE in February.

Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsBlack women are ambitious — that's why we need more in office GOP lawmaker: 'Pretty cool' Harris has a shot at being the 'most powerful person in the world' How Biden decided on Harris MORE (D-Fla.)

Demings, who has a background in law enforcement, is one of three lawmakers on both panels — giving her two bites at the apple during Mueller’s marathon five-hour appearance.

For weeks, Demings has been a vocal supporter of opening an impeachment inquiry into Trump, and her questions will be closely watched for clues as to whether Mueller’s testimony moves that process forward.

After Mueller’s nine-minute statement in May, Demings tweeted that Mueller is “asking us to do what he wasn’t allowed to — hold the president accountable.” 

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanOklahoma State to require masks in football stands, urges mobile ticketing Win by QAnon believer creates new headaches for House GOP World's most trafficked mammal gives Trump new way to hit China on COVID-19 MORE (R-Ohio)

Jordan is a top Trump ally and one of the highest-profile Republicans who will question Mueller.

He’s declined to provide many details about strategy for Mueller but indicated that he wants to know about the “process” or origins of the Russia investigation. Republicans are generally expected to pursue a line of questioning about how the 22-month probe began.

Jordan has remained a vocal supporter of “investigating the investigators” over claims of alleged anti-Trump bias among top officials at the FBI and Justice Department. He has also expressed interest in the government’s use of surveillance warrants and the Steele dossier.

This won’t be the first time Jordan questions Mueller. In 2013, he pressed the then-FBI director about whether the IRS improperly targeted conservative groups for scrutiny.

Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinCongress must enact a plan to keep government workers safe Five takeaways from Fauci's testimony GOP lawmakers comply with Pelosi's mask mandate for House floor MORE (D-Md.)

A former professor of constitutional law, Raskin is well-versed in the prosecutorial speak that makes up much of Mueller’s report.

He can often be seen on cable news and in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol speaking to reporters about the Judiciary Committee’s investigation and the implications of Mueller’s report and testimony.

In addition to sitting on the Judiciary panel, Raskin is also a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is also spearheading investigations into Trump.

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzMatt Gaetz, Roger Stone back far-right activist Laura Loomer in congressional bid Gaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Progress slow on coronavirus bill MORE (R-Fla.)

Gaetz knows how to make a statement when the cameras are focused on him. Over the past two years, he’s made a name for himself during high-profile hearings. And his frequent, fiery appearances on Fox News defending Trump have also helped him develop powerful ties to the Oval Office. 

“Do you believe if we turned the lights off here and lit some candles, got out a Ouija board, we could potentially raise the specter of Richard Nixon?” Gaetz asked Nixon’s former White House counsel John Dean, who testified on Capitol Hill last month as a star Democratic witness. 

“You are here as a prop,” Gaetz added. 

The Trump ally is unlikely to pass up an opportunity to draw attention to GOP concerns about the origins of the Russia probe, particularly if the president may be watching.