Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said he would invite special counsel Robert Mueller to testify as part of the Republican-led panel’s investigation into the origins and conduct of the Trump-Russia investigation.
“Apparently Mr. Mueller is willing — and also capable — of defending the Mueller investigation through an oped in the Washington Post,” the South Carolina Republican tweeted on Sunday. “Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have previously requested Mr. Mueller appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about his investigation. That request will be granted.”
Mueller, a former FBI director, wrote an opinion article in the Washington Post on Saturday arguing that Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser to President Trump, “remains a convicted felon, and rightfully so.” Whether Mueller accepts Graham’s invitation remains to be seen.
Stone, 67, had been convicted of lying to congressional investigators about his alleged attempted outreach to WikiLeaks, obstructing a congressional investigation, and attempting to intimidate a possible congressional witness.
The White House released a statement Friday evening announcing that Trump had signed a grant of clemency, calling Stone a “victim of the Russia Hoax.” With the commutation, Stone’s 40-month sentence was wiped away days before he was set to go to prison. Without a pardon, Stone maintains his criminal record.
The White House press office harshly criticized the credibility of Mueller’s investigation when Stone’s clemency was announced, arguing there was “never any collusion” between the Trump team and Russia.
“Such collusion was never anything other than a fantasy of partisans unable to accept the result of the 2016 election. The collusion delusion spawned endless and farcical investigations, conducted at great taxpayer expense, looking for evidence that did not exist,” the White House said. “As it became clear that these witch hunts would never bear fruit, the Special Counsel’s Office resorted to process-based charges leveled at high-profile people in an attempt to manufacture the false impression of criminality lurking below the surface.”
Mueller said Saturday that “Russia’s actions were a threat to America’s democracy” and “the Russia investigation was of paramount importance.”
The special counsel, who had not spoken out publicly since testifying about his report last summer, defended the integrity of his investigation, which concluded that Russia interfered in 2016 in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” but “did not establish” any criminal conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign.
“We made every decision in Stone’s case, as in all our cases, based solely on the facts and the law and in accordance with the rule of law. The women and men who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity. Claims to the contrary are false,” Mueller wrote.
Stone was not charged with crimes of Trump-Russia collusion. After his conviction and sentencing, more references to Stone in Mueller’s report have been declassified.
Back in June, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to give Graham the authority to issue subpoenas against dozens of Obama and Trump administrations officials who had been involved in the Trump-Russia investigation.
Graham has listed 53 prominent figures connected to the Russia investigation who now may face subpoenas, though the list does not include former President Barack Obama despite Trump’s urging.
“I think we need to look long and hard at how the Mueller investigation got off the rails,” Graham said when arguing for the subpoenas.
One point of committee’s debate was whether to call Mueller, as Democrats urged Graham to call him as a witness.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member from California, said there are “many outstanding questions that remain unanswered” and insisted Mueller was the “best suited” to answer them.
Graham called Mueller “a great patriot” but suggested that perhaps Andrew Weissmann, a former Justice Department and FBI official who was a top prosecutor on Mueller’s team, should testify instead.
“I think Mr. Mueller is a man of extensive brain cells and can well recall the situation,” Feinstein said. “I think this side would very much like to have him here.”
Graham warned them to “think twice” about it, but then said if Democrats want to call Mueller “or his designee” to appear before the committee, then “that’s fine with me.” Graham solidified that message on Sunday, meaning Mueller may appear for high profile testimony yet again — this time months before a presidential election.
Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a public hearing in early June, and DOJ official Bruce Ohr met with the committee behind closed doors in late June.