WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says it’s “case closed.” But Democrats are just getting started with Robert Mueller.
House Democrats have scheduled a series of hearings this coming week on the special counsel’s report as they intensify their focus on the Russia probe and pick up the pace on an investigative “path” — in the words of Speaker Nancy Pelosi — that some of them hope leads to impeachment of the president.
In doing so, they are trying to draw the public’s attention on the allegations that Trump sought to obstruct a federal investigation and they want to highlight his campaign’s contacts with Russia in the 2016 election.
And they will lay the groundwork for an appearance from Mueller himself, despite his stated desire to avoid the spotlight.
The hearings will focus on the two main topics of Mueller’s report, obstruction of justice and Russian election interference.
The House Judiciary Committee plans to cover the first topic at a Monday hearing on “presidential obstruction and other crimes.” The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday intends to review the counterintelligence implications of the Russian meddling. Mueller said there was not enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, but he said he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction.
On Tuesday, the House has scheduled a vote to authorize contempt cases against Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Donald McGahn for failing to comply with subpoenas from the Democratic-controlled House.
Barr defied a subpoena to provide an unredacted version of Mueller’s report, along with underlying evidence. McGahn, who is frequently referenced in the report, has defied subpoenas to provide documents and testify before the House Judiciary Committee.
Language in the resolution would make it easier for committee chairmen to take the Trump administration to court. Those chairmen could take legal action to enforce subpoenas in the future without a vote of the full House, so long as the chairmen have approval from a five-person, bipartisan group where Democrats have the majority.
The procession of hearings and votes in the week ahead is partly designed to mollify anxious Democrats who have pushed Pelosi, D-Calif., to begin impeachment proceedings immediately. Pelosi has so far rejected that option, preferring a slower, more methodical approach to investigating the president, including the court fights and hearings.
Trump has made that assertion repeatedly, echoing Barr’s judgment that there was not enough evidence in the report to support a criminal obstruction charge. Mueller said in the report that he could not exonerate Trump on that point.
The special counsel did not find evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia. But the report details multiple contacts between the two.
Educating the American public on what is in the Mueller report is a priority for Democrats, who believe Trump and his allies have created the public impression that the report said there was no obstruction of justice.