National Security

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 Mueller 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.

{mosads}It separately did not reach a conclusion on whether President Trump obstructed the investigation, though it pointedly declined to “exonerate” the president.

Here are 10 key players to watch.

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (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 Schiff (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 Barr, 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 Nunes (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 Lofgren (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.

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas)

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 Cohen in February.

Rep. Val Demings (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 Jordan (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 Raskin (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 Gaetz (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. 

 

Tags Adam Schiff Devin Nunes Donald Trump Jamie Raskin Jerrold Nadler Jim Jordan John Ratcliffe Matt Gaetz Michael Cohen Mueller investigation Robert Mueller Val Demings William Barr Zoe Lofgren

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