On the heels of the stunning announcement that former Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify next month, a top congressional Republican urged Democrats to treat the hearing as a moment of “closure” for the long-running Russia controversy.
“May this testimony bring to House Democrats the closure that the rest of America has enjoyed for months, and may it enable them to return to the business of legislating,” Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
Collins appeared to welcome Mueller’s appearance conditionally after committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., announced he would testify July 17 following the issuance of subpoenas.
But, in his written statement, he voiced hope that what is sure to be a high-drama hearing serves to conclude the Russia probe saga once and for all. “I hope the special counsel's testimony marks an end to the political gamesmanship that Judiciary Democrats have pursued at great cost to taxpayers,” he said.
Democrats, though, have escalated their Russia-related investigations – including digging deeper into allegations of obstruction of justice against President Trump – since the conclusion of Mueller’s probe. More House Democrats also have pushed for the launch of impeachment proceedings against Trump, despite resistance from party leaders.
Both Schiff and Nadler have been holding Russia-related hearings in that time, and indications so far have been that Mueller’s appearance would mark another chapter in that effort – not necessarily the finale.
“Robert Mueller has agreed to testify before Congress pursuant to subpoena,” Schiff tweeted late Tuesday. “Russia attacked our democracy to help Trump win. Trump welcomed and used that help. As Mueller said, that should concern every American. And now, every American will get to hear directly from Mueller.”
Schiff previously outlined the avenues of questioning he would intend to pursue with Mueller at the witness stand – and made clear he would press for detailed answers despite the former special counsel’s stated reluctance to testify.
“It's not enough merely to speak for 10 minutes and say, 'I'm not going to answer questions for Congress and the American people.' There are a great many things that are not in the report,” he told ABC News’ “This Week” earlier this month. “We want to find out what happened to those counterintelligence findings that were sent back to headquarters. And in terms of if the president is vulnerable of influence from Russia.”
Those statements came after Mueller said in late May, in his first public remarks in more than two years, “The report is my testimony.” He further said that if he were to be called to speak under oath, he would not say anything other than what already was in his report.
The Mueller report did not find proof of a criminal conspiracy between Trump associates and Russia – and while it did not reach a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice, Attorney General Bill Barr determined there was not enough evidence to support such a case.
But, the report detailed numerous incidents that were reviewed as part of the obstruction inquiry, including an allegation that Trump sought to have Mueller removed, as well as contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. Schiff, in a statement in late May, cited those “countless contacts” as he began more aggressively calling for Mueller’s testimony.
“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,” he said at the time.
Expectations for the hearing may vary among the Democrats.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said during a news conference earlier this month that House Democrats wanted Mueller to testify — even if he just sticks to what's in the report.
“Bob Mueller should testify publicly before the American people, even if that simply means sticking to the script and the four corners of his 400-plus page report,” Jeffries said.
Fox News’ Liam Quinn contributed to this report.