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Sen. Lindsey Graham to call Mueller to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee

Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington on July 24, 2019.
Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington on July 24, 2019. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Sunday that he would call former special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before his panel about the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and ties to the Trump campaign.

The announcement, part of an election-year bid by Senate Republicans to discredit the inquiry, came after Mueller broke a nearly yearlong silence Saturday in an op-ed for The Washington Post in which he defended his office’s prosecution of Roger Stone and its broader investigation. President Donald Trump had brought the investigation, which consumed much of his early presidency, to the fore again when he commuted Stone’s sentence Friday, and the White House issued a lengthy statement denouncing Mueller’s investigation and the “overzealous prosecutors” who convicted Stone.

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“Apparently Mr. Mueller is willing — and also capable — of defending the Mueller investigation through an oped in the Washington Post,” Graham wrote on Twitter. “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.”

A spokeswoman for the committee confirmed Sunday that it was preparing a formal invitation to Mueller.

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While the special counsel’s investigation did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia, it did outline numerous contacts between them and documented several instances when Trump took actions to impede the inquiry. Since the release of the special counsel’s report last year, Republicans have sought to cast doubt on its conclusions by tarnishing Mueller and his investigators and painting the Trump campaign as victims of malicious overreach by law enforcement officials.

Last month, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to give themselves expansive authority to subpoena dozens of national security aides and several high-ranking Obama administration officials, and Graham signaled that he would hold public hearings highlighting errors and omissions by investigators that had been uncovered by a Justice Department inspector general. A similar investigation is being taken up by Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“We need to look long and hard at how the Mueller investigation got off the rails,” Graham said before the vote. “This committee is not going to sit on the sidelines and move on.”

Democrats have said Graham is wasting the committee’s time when the panel should be taking up issues including the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and racial discrimination in policing. They have accused Republicans of using the committee as a tool of electoral politics.

The effort mirrors one by Trump himself to rewrite the narrative of the Russia investigation. Late last week, he publicly vented that neither his administration nor Republicans were adequately investigating unsubstantiated accusations that former President Barack Obama masterminded a plot to spy on his campaign.

“No Republican Senate Judiciary response, NO ‘JUSTICE’, NO FBI, NO NOTHING,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The president continued that effort Friday evening as he commuted the sentence of Stone, a longtime friend and former campaign adviser, just before he was set to serve a 40-month sentence in federal prison. He was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign and ties to Russia, with prosecutors convincing jurors that he lied under oath, withheld a trove of documents and threatened an associate with harm if he cooperated with congressional investigators. Stone has maintained his innocence.

In announcing the commutation, the White House released a screed condemning Mueller’s office, calling his prosecutors “out of control” and “desperate for splashy headlines to compensate for a failed investigation.”

“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,” the statement said. “These charges were the product of recklessness borne of frustration and malice.”

In his rebuttal in The Post, Mueller said he felt “compelled to respond both to broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate” and to “specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office.”

“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,” Mueller wrote. “The women and men who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity. Claims to the contrary are false.”

c.2020 The New York Times Company

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