President Donald Trump has declared that special counsel Robert Mueller should not testify before Congress about his final report on the Russia investigation. But the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Rep. Adam Schiff, are hoping that Mueller will testify —and journalist Eric Lutz, in an article for Vanity Fair, offers some insights on why Trump is so disturbed by the possibility of Mueller responding to questions from Democrats in the House.
Lutz opens his piece by noting that “in theory,” Trump “shouldn’t have much to fear” from Mueller testifying. The special counsel’s report concluded that the 2016 Trump campaign’s interactions with Russians did not reach the level of a criminal conspiracy, and Pelosi has stressed that she doesn’t plan to pursue impeachment. But according to Lutz, Trump is “worried that putting Mueller on the stand would draw even more eyes than the much-watched testimony of his former fixer Michael Cohen.”
Attorney Cohen, who began serving a three-year sentence in federal prison earlier this week, painted Trump in a very negative light when he gave extensive testimony before the House Oversight Committee on February 27. And if Mueller testifies before Congress, Lutz writes, Trump “may be right to fret.” Lutz notes that Cohen’s testimony “weakened the president’s standing in the public eye,” adding that Mueller’s testimony could be damaging as well.
Lutz stresses that “Trump’s core supporters” are “unlikely” to “be swayed by anything Mueller has to say.” But the Vanity Fair journalist indicates that swing voters and undecided voters could be another matter in the 2020 presidential race if they hear Mueller testify.
“Indeed,” Lutz writes, “any appearance by Mueller on the Hill would probably play out like other high-profile hearings of the Trump era: Democrats will tease out damaging information, while Republicans will defend their party leader and attack the subject of the hearing, with varying degrees of success. Still, such a testimony could weaken Trump just enough to hurt his chances heading into 2020, where Democrats — unwilling to risk a failed impeachment effort — have staked their hopes of ousting him.”
Lutz wraps up his Vanity Fair piece by noting that no matter how much the Trump White House tries to prevent Mueller from testifying, “they may not be able to stop it from happening.” And even though Attorney General William Barr “could bend to Trump’s whims and seek to block Mueller from testifying while the special counsel is a (Department of Justice) employee, he won’t have that power when Mueller is once again a private citizen.”