House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says special counsel Robert Mueller wants to testify to Congress — but in private.
Mueller is willing to give a public opening statement, but wants his testimony to be a closed-door affair, with transcripts available to the public later.
Sorry, Mr. Mueller. That's not acceptable.
You owe the American people more than that. Especially after you wrote the letter to Attorney General William Barr saying that his summary "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office's work and conclusions."
Nadler, who made this discouraging announcement Thursday on MSNBC's Rachal Maddow show, couldn't exactly explain why Mueller wants a private audience with Congress.
"I don't know. He envisions himself, correctly, as a man of great rectitude. And apolitical. And he doesn't want to participate in anything that he might regard as a political spectacle," Nadler said. But he added, "I'm speculating really."
We Americans don't want a political spectacle, either. But we have a president so lacking in competence and ethics that it required the appointment of a special counsel — Mueller — to investigate the interference of a foreign adversary in our 2016 election.
Now, like it or not, we are all embroiled in a political spectacle, and Mueller's 400-plus page report leaves questions that need answers and explanations. In person, in the moment, in public.
The Washington Post hinted at this standoff earlier in the week, but noted that what is driving the debate "is in dispute."
"Two people familiar with the matter said the Justice Department is deferring to Mueller, who would like for any discussions beyond the public contents of his report to be conducted in private. But another person said it is primarily the department, rather than Mueller himself, resisting a nationally televised hearing," the Post wrote.
Democrats want to press the special counsel publicly about whether he thought President Trump could or should be charged with obstruction if he were not the president, and whether Mueller agreed with Attorney General William P. Barr's handling of the investigation's findings.
And certainly one can envision Mueller being asked the very question of what drove his reticence to speak out all this time.
Sure it might be uncomfortable to have to say, under oath, that yes he was pressured not to testify by Barr, or a Barr underling, or even the president.
Or maybe it might be uncomfortable for him to say he wasn't pressured but just was tired and wanted to go home after two and half years of "spectacle."
But America is tired, too. And all the parties that could help Americans get past all this are trying to hide behind something. Trump and Barr don't want Don McGhan or Hope Hicks or anyone else to testify. Now Mueller wants to just give us a sanitized opening statement and go hide, too.
If Barr's summary "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of Mueller's work and conclusions," what will Mueller's refusal to answer congressional questions publicly about that work and conclusions do?
We'll tell you what: It will deprive the lazy American public that doesn't want to read 400 pages-plus of the Mueller report yet another opportunity to not see what is really there. And if they won't read the report, why would they read Mueller's testimony transcripts?
Something else "private" testimony will achieve is yet another opportunity for Americans to only see and hear the swill that Fox News feeds them daily. Trump and Barr and others once again will spin the transcripts to provide the same kind of misrepresented summaries they offered weeks ago when the Mueller report first came out.
Robert Mueller, if you're half the straight-up Marine people have said you are, you'll dust off your hat, stand straight and sit in that witness chair for hours — days if need be — to set this country straight.