The Buzz

Lindsey Graham ‘not interested’ in calling Mueller to testify before Judiciary Committee

Lindsey Graham has no plans to ask White House special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

The South Carolina Republican, reached by phone by McClatchy as he traveled on official business in Rwanda, said Thursday he was “not interested” in hearing from Mueller, the lead author of the newly-released report detailing the years-long investigation into whether President Donald Trump colluded with Russia and obstructed justice.

“He’s done his job,” Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said of Mueller, “and I’m not going to retry the case.”

A staunch Trump ally, Graham could face increased pressure to ask Mueller to appear before his panel. Attorney General William Barr said at a press conference on Thursday morning he had no problem with Mueller testifying on Capitol Hill, which could open the floodgates for lawmakers to demand Graham extend an invitation.

U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-New York., has already asked Mueller to come speak to members of his committee. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she would specifically ask that Graham make the same request.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a statement that Mueller’s congressional testimony “would give the Congress and the American people another opportunity to better understand the facts and conclusions that he reached during his investigation.”

Speaking to reporters Thursday, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, a member of Senate GOP leadership, said he was “neutral” on the matter.

“I have no opinion about whether (Mueller) should be asked to personally testify or not,” Blunt added. “He has presented a report. Everybody’s going to be able to see a substantial amount of that. Members of Congress, others, are going to have to decide whether he should personally testify or not.”

Mueller’s 448-page report states the special counsel’s team could find no evidence that Trump and his campaign associates worked directly with Russian officials to influence the outcome of the 2016 campaign.

The report also details the extent to which Trump might have obstructed justice in efforts to thwart Mueller’s investigation, but does not draw a conclusion about whether Trump’s efforts constituted a criminal offense.

Barr has determined Trump should not be implicated. Democrats want to know, among other things, if Mueller agrees with that decision.

On Thursday, Graham also released a brief official statement to confirm his office had received a copy of the report, and to “applaud Attorney General Barr for his commitment to transparency and keeping the American people informed, consistent with the law and our national security interests.”

Graham added in the statement he “look(ed) forward” to hearing Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1. The senator separately told McClatchy his staff would soon brief him on the report and, once that occurs, he would offer his impressions.

But last week, Graham signaled he didn’t expect to learn anything profound from the Mueller report, telling reporters on April 9 that he anticipated he’d be satisfied with whatever Barr chose to share with Congress and the public.

“It’s over,” Graham said. “It’s over, for me. Unless there’s something in the report that suggests Mueller did not say there was no collusion or ... if he says, you know, ‘I can’t decide on obstruction, you decide,’ the decision by Barr’s okay with me. If the report indicates no collusion found by Mueller, done, over, for me.”

Graham also said he would not argue with redactions or the omission of grand jury testimonies, adding he felt “very comfortable” with the four-page summary of the Mueller report Barr submitted to Congress last month: “I trust (Barr’s) judgment. I think he understands the more transparency the better, we are a nation of laws and because you don’t like Trump is no reason to change the law.”

To Democrats who argue they won’t know the full set of circumstances until they see an unredacted report and grand jury records, Graham urged his colleagues to “let it go.”

From the time of Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, Graham has never questioned the need for a special counsel or doubted the value of the endeavor.

Though he said frequently he’d seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, Graham emphasized he looked forward to reading Mueller’s full report before commenting on any number of accusations against the president, such as potential obstruction of justice.

At a press conference on March 25, Graham read through a list of his own past statements, and when he said them, to establish a record of occasions on which he defended Mueller and his work, even as Trump called the effort a “witch hunt.”

But there were also times over the past year and a half where Graham suggested he might be doubting Mueller would uncover information to damage the Trump presidency.

After the New York Times published an op-ed from an anonymous administration official detailing efforts inside the White House to contain Trump’s potential mental instability, Graham said it was part of a conspiracy to change the narrative to discredit the president.

“That’s the best evidence yet that there’s no collusion,” he told reporters at the time. “This to me is a signal that there’s nothing there with Russia in terms of the president.”

Graham, who was golfing with Trump in Mar-a-Lago in Florida when Barr transmitted summary of the Mueller report last month, was with another member of the Trump family on the eve of the full report’s release.

He and the president’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, on Wednesday appeared together at a summit in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, to promote women entrepreneurs.

Brian Lowry, Lesley Clark and Kate Irby of the McClatchy Washington bureau contributed to this report.
Emma Dumain works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where her reporting on South Carolina politics appears in The State, The Herald, The Sun News, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. She was previously the Washington correspondent for the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier. Dumain also covered Congress for Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly.