Cartoon by Ed Wexler

Trump says Mueller shouldn’t testify to Congress, escalating fight with Democrats

The Los Angeles Times: President Trump declared Sunday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III should not testify to Congress, sharply escalating his fight with House Democrats over the aftermath of Mueller’s report.

“Bob Mueller should not testify,” the president tweeted on Sunday afternoon. Brushing aside congressional Democrats’ contention that many aspects of the 448-page report need public clarifying – and are highly damning to Trump – the president added: “No redos for the Dems!”

House Democrats have said they have a tentative deal for Mueller to testify on May 15, and Atty. Gen. William Barr previously told Congress that he had no objection to Mueller testifying.

It was unclear whether Trump would try now to block an appearance by Mueller, who remains a Justice Department employee, or was merely making a rhetorical point.

There was quick Democratic pushback; Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter that Mueller, together with former White House counsel Donald McGahn, “will testify.”

Whatever the outcome, Trump’s statement marked a further ratcheting up of tensions.

House Democrats have been pressing demands for a fuller version of the special counsel’s released-but-redacted report and warned Friday that Barr risked a contempt citation if he fails to provide it by Monday.

There are fears on both side of the aisle that the confrontation over Mueller’s report – which has morphed into a struggle over the scope of congressional oversight powers – could have lasting adverse consequences. Democrats say they are worried about a president claiming virtually unchecked powers; Republicans say they are trying to preserve executive prerogative and personal privacy.

Congressional Republicans, meantime, sought to tamp down new controversy over the president’s omission, in a conversation last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, of any warning to Moscow against interfering in the 2020 presidential election. It was the two leaders’ first conversation since Mueller detailed sweeping and systematic Russian attempts to encroach on the 2016 campaign.

Weeks after Mueller completed his report, the document stands as a political Rorschach test. The special counsel did not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, but depicted an array of related misconduct and left open the possibility that the president had tried to obstruct justice. Mueller indicated he was in part constrained by Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Trump claimed total exoneration, even before the report was released to the public. His Republican allies have repeated accusations of a “witch hunt” and have gone on the offensive with demands that the investigators be investigated.

Democrats, by contrast, say the report showed that Trump may have committed impeachable acts, and that at the very least, the “road map” provided by Mueller must be followed through with exhaustive congressional investigations. Party leaders have stopped short of calling for opening impeachment proceedings, but have said further investigations are needed.

The next act in the drama is imminent, with the likelihood that Barr will not comply with requests by the House Judiciary Committee for an unredacted copy of Mueller’s report. Barr says the redactions are mandated by laws protecting grand jury secrecy; House Democrats dispute that.

If the attorney general does not comply, he could face a contempt citation, said Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who sits on the committee >>>