House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler told Democratic leaders at a closed-door meeting this week that he could issue a subpoena to Robert Mueller within two weeks if he is unable to reach an agreement to secure the former special counsel’s public testimony, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.
Nadler’s comments at the Tuesday meeting were his clearest remarks to date on the possibility of compelling Mueller’s attendance at a public hearing. The committee is still negotiating with Mueller, who, according to Nadler, is thus far only willing to answer lawmakers’ questions in private — a nonstarter for most House Democrats.
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The sources cautioned that the committee has not settled on a timetable for a potential subpoena to Mueller. Speaker Nancy Pelosi hosted the meeting, and four other committee chairs were in attendance.
On Wednesday, Nadler told reporters that he was “confident” Mueller will appear before his panel, and that he would issue a subpoena “if we have to.”
“We want him to testify openly. I think the American people need that,” Nadler added. “I think, frankly, it’s his duty to the American people. And we’ll make that happen.”
Mueller spoke publicly last week for the first time since the start of his 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump sought to obstruct the probe. In addition to formally closing down his investigation and resigning from the Justice Department, Mueller said: “I hope and expect that this is the only time that I will speak to you in this manner.”
But he said that if he testifies before Congress, his remarks “will not go beyond our report.”
“The work speaks for itself,” Mueller added. “The report is my testimony.”
Getting Mueller in front of the cameras is House Democrats’ top priority as they seek to spotlight the special counsel’s evidence outlining Trump’s efforts to obstruct the investigation. Democrats are also going to federal court as soon as next week to compel former White House counsel Don McGahn’s testimony, and they have issued subpoenas to other former Trump aides whose testimony Mueller cited in his 448-page report.
Their efforts also come as Pelosi faces pressure to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. During the same meeting Tuesday night, Pelosi stood firm against such proceedings, saying Trump should be “in prison,” not impeached.
But Nadler, who has publicly resisted calls to kick off an impeachment inquiry, made the case to Pelosi for opening one, saying it would strengthen his committee’s standing in federal court as it seeks to haul McGahn and other witnesses before the panel.
Around 60 Democrats have come out in support of impeachment proceedings, and several more have said publicly and privately that Mueller’s testimony will be the deciding factor.
Trump issued a blanket claim of executive privilege over Mueller’s full report and underlying evidence, but Attorney General William Barr has said he does not have an issue with Mueller testifying.
Some Republicans, too, have urged Mueller to testify before Congress, including Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, Nadler’s GOP counterpart.