Key lawmakers to watch at Mueller hearing
House lawmakers from across the political spectrum will finally get a chance to grill former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThis week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Top Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction MORE on Wednesday about his two-year investigation.
Mueller will face lawmakers from the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees in back-to-back hearings months after the release of his report, which did not find enough evidence to show the Trump campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
It separately did not reach a conclusion on whether President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE obstructed the investigation, though it pointedly declined to “exonerate” the president.
Here are 10 key players to watch.
Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler: DOJ directive to Mueller is part of ‘ongoing cover up’ from Trump administration Harris, Nadler introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana Why are we permitting federal child abuse at our border? MORE (D-N.Y.)
Nadler, who will be the first lawmaker to question Mueller, is under enormous pressure to ensure that Wednesday is a success for his party.
He’s looking for a smooth hearing and to elicit answers from Mueller in a way that will reverberate with the American public.
The hearing could be a turning point on impeachment, depending on how dramatically the day goes. Nadler explicitly acknowledged earlier this month that “articles of impeachment are under consideration as part of the Committee’s investigation, although no final determination has been made.”
He and other Democrats are hoping the hearing breathes life into the Mueller report, which Democrats have repeatedly noted that most Americans have not read.
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But Nadler and other Democrats are also being careful about setting expectations.
“We hope it won’t end up being a dud,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.)
The top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who will lead the GOP’s counternarrative on Wednesday, has the key role for his party.
He told Fox News over the weekend that the GOP strategy will hinge on questions about the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and what he described as the “corrupt cabal” of agents that worked on it.
Republicans have long argued that the agents who worked on the investigation in its infancy were motivated by bias against Trump’s candidacy, pointing to anti-Trump text messages exchanged by two of the FBI officials.
They have also raised questions about the so-called Steele dossier, a compendium put together by a former British spy containing unverified allegations about Trump and Russia, and the political leanings of Mueller’s investigators.
Intelligence Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffPelosi, Democrats launch Mueller messaging blitz Mueller testimony could be frustrating for both parties Hillicon Valley: Equifax to pay up to 0M over data breach | Settlement invites criticism from lawmakers | Microsoft settles bribery case | Election security to take back seat at Mueller testimony MORE (D-Calif.)
The former prosecutor will oversee Mueller’s second two-hour hearing on Capitol Hill, where Democrats are intent on highlighting the numerous contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.
They want to put a spotlight on the Trump campaign’s willingness to accept Russia’s help, something they think was made clear in Mueller’s report.
Schiff argues the report presents a “damning set of facts” that has been glossed over by Trump and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrGraham says he will call Papadopoulos to testify Pelosi, Democrats launch Mueller messaging blitz The Hill’s Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike MORE, both of whom say it vindicates Trump on allegations of “collusion.”
Schiff has also raised alarm about the national security implications of Trump and his associates’ dealings with Russia, which could be a point of focus.
Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesTrump met with Nunes to discuss potential replacements for Dan Coats: report Will Democrats be up to the task of publicly interviewing Mueller? Election security to take back seat at Mueller hearing MORE (R-Calif.)
Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, has been a prominent defender of Trump and a vocal critic of the special counsel and his probe.
He nicknamed the special counsel’s report the “Mueller dossier” and claimed at a hearing last month that its purpose was to “help Democrats impeach the president.”
Nunes has proven a controversial figure. He was forced to step away from leading the committee’s original Russia probe after the Ethics Committee started examining allegations he had revealed classified information. Nunes was cleared in December 2017.
Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenHouse Problem Solvers are bringing real change to Congress Al Green says impeachment is ‘only solution’ to Trump’s rhetoric Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment MORE (D-Calif.)
Lofgren is the sole House Democrat to serve on Capitol Hill during two previous high-profile impeachment inquiries.
She was a Judiciary staffer in 1974, when the panel prepared articles of impeachment against then-President Nixon. Years later, she was a member of Congress when the GOP-controlled House voted to impeach then-President Clinton in 1998 — a move she fiercely opposed.
Now, Lofgren is one of the few Judiciary members cautioning against moving toward impeachment.
Lofgren told the Los Angeles Times last month that the evidence produced in the Mueller report has not yet reached the threshold for impeachment met during the Nixon Watergate scandal.
Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeRepublican lawmakers on why they haven’t read Mueller report: ‘Tedious’ and ‘what’s the point?’ Bipartisan Judiciary members request probe into gender discrimination allegations at FBI academy Hillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger MORE (R-Texas)
Ratcliffe is the only Republican on both panels interrogating Mueller and is considered a star cross-examiner in his conference.
A former U.S. attorney and federal terrorism prosecutor, Ratcliffe’s profile rose last year during the joint GOP-led probe into FBI decisionmaking during the 2016 presidential election.
GOP leadership has conferred with Ratcliffe on strategy, and in past hearings members have deferred extra time to Ratcliffe.
He has also popped into hearings on panels where he is not a member to offer advice during high-profile witness interviews, as he did during the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s hearing with former Trump lawyer Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenWill Democrats be up to the task of publicly interviewing Mueller? A question for Robert Mueller Key numbers to know for Mueller’s testimony MORE in February.
Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsMueller testimony could be frustrating for both parties Hillicon Valley: Equifax to pay up to 0M over data breach | Settlement invites criticism from lawmakers | Microsoft settles bribery case | Election security to take back seat at Mueller testimony Election security to take back seat at Mueller hearing MORE (D-Fla.)
Demings, who has a background in law enforcement, is one of three lawmakers on both panels — giving her two bites at the apple during Mueller’s marathon five-hour appearance.
For weeks, Demings has been a vocal supporter of opening an impeachment inquiry into Trump, and her questions will be closely watched for clues as to whether Mueller’s testimony moves that process forward.
After Mueller’s nine-minute statement in May, Demings tweeted that Mueller is “asking us to do what he wasn’t allowed to — hold the president accountable.”
Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanConservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Will Democrats be up to the task of publicly interviewing Mueller? 10 questions for Robert Mueller MORE (R-Ohio)
Jordan is a top Trump ally and one of the highest-profile Republicans who will question Mueller.
He’s declined to provide many details about strategy for Mueller but indicated that he wants to know about the “process” or origins of the Russia investigation. Republicans are generally expected to pursue a line of questioning about how the 22-month probe began.
Jordan has remained a vocal supporter of “investigating the investigators” over claims of alleged anti-Trump bias among top officials at the FBI and Justice Department. He has also expressed interest in the government’s use of surveillance warrants and the Steele dossier.
This won’t be the first time Jordan questions Mueller. In 2013, he pressed the then-FBI director about whether the IRS improperly targeted conservative groups for scrutiny.
Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinBig Tech has big credibility gap Democrats look to capitalize on turmoil inside NRA Two Democrats vow to press forward on Trump impeachment MORE (D-Md.)
A former professor of constitutional law, Raskin is well-versed in the prosecutorial speak that makes up much of Mueller’s report.
He can often be seen on cable news and in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol speaking to reporters about the Judiciary Committee’s investigation and the implications of Mueller’s report and testimony.
In addition to sitting on the Judiciary panel, Raskin is also a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is also spearheading investigations into Trump.
Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzThe Hill’s Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: ‘We are going to reelect the president’ Matt Gaetz hints prosecutor won’t press charges against threatening caller for political reasons MORE (R-Fla.)
Gaetz knows how to make a statement when the cameras are focused on him. Over the past two years, he’s made a name for himself during high-profile hearings. And his frequent, fiery appearances on Fox News defending Trump have also helped him develop powerful ties to the Oval Office.
“Do you believe if we turned the lights off here and lit some candles, got out a Ouija board, we could potentially raise the specter of Richard Nixon?” Gaetz asked Nixon’s former White House counsel John Dean, who testified on Capitol Hill last month as a star Democratic witness.
“You are here as a prop,” Gaetz added.
The Trump ally is unlikely to pass up an opportunity to draw attention to GOP concerns about the origins of the Russia probe, particularly if the president may be watching.