Why Trump and Barr Are Attempting to Silence Robert Mueller

Minutes after Attorney General Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Mueller report ended, Chair Lindsey Graham declared that the whole Russia investigation was over and he wasn’t interested in hearing from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Of course, the committee’s Democrats don’t agree. On Wednesday, they sent a letter to Graham outlining why the whole investigation isn’t over by listing 60 questions that they’d be interested in asking Mueller. The questions themselves are revealing—to say the least. The first half are related to Volume I of the special counsel’s report on Russian interference. They demonstrate that Democrats aren’t ready to put the whole idea of a Trump-Russia conspiracy to rest. For example, they want to ask:

Why did the office elect not to pursue an interview with Donald Trump Jr. and did his refusal to be interviewed impact the investigation? If so, how?

To what degree was the investigation able to determine why Paul Manafort volunteered to work for the Trump campaign for free, and whether he discussed the possibility of joining the Trump campaign team with foreign nationals?

To what degree was your investigation able to determine whether members ofthe campaign other than Rick Gates were aware that internal campaign strategy and polling data was being shared with Kilimnik? [Vol. I, p. 136]

To what degree was your investigation able to determine whether internal Clinton campaign data analytics and voter-turnout models that were stolen as part of the Russian hacking operation were used by Russia or shared with anyone working for or with the Trump campaign?

To what degree did your investigation examine the role of Cambridge Analytica, AggregateIQ (AIQ), or SCL Group in the 2016 election? Did your investigation examine the possibility that US election or Trump campaign information was shared with Russia through these entities?

To what degree was your investigation able to determine whether the Trump Tower Moscow project was part of an effort to gain influence over Donald Trump?

The second half of the list of questions relate to Mueller’s investigation of obstruction of justice. They cover not only the specific ways Trump attempted to stop or alter the investigation but Mueller’s decision-making process and how Barr intervened.

By simply listing these questions, Senate Democrats have demonstrated how critical it is to hear from Mueller himself—something Trump and his enablers have attempted to block at every turn. Keep in mind that two days after the special counsel delivered his report to the Justice Department, Barr released a four-page summary that distorted its findings and conclusions. At the time, they refused to release the executive summaries that had been prepared specifically for public release. And when the redactions were complete, Barr held a press conference on the report that wasn’t attended by Mueller, claiming that it was now “my report.”

Knowing that they probably can’t stop him from testifying eventually, both the president and the attorney general have attempted to undermine Mueller and his investigation. Barr did so subtly, by dismissing his professional credentials in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and then referring to the letter he wrote in objection to the attorney general’s summary as “snitty.”

We know how worried Trump is of public testimony from Mueller by the way he has gone into attack mode against the special counsel. That was particularly pronounced during an ad hoc press conference on Thursday.

In that clip, the president is basically rehashing Mueller’s supposed conflicts of interest, which he attempted to use to get the special prosecutor fired (obstruction of justice), but was told were meaningless by his own lawyers. It is a naked attempt to smear the man who’s responsible for a report that Trump has said totally vindicated him.

Since Mueller was appointed as special counsel, he has not spoken publicly except through his indictments and the final report. So it is unclear how he will respond when queried about his work. All we know is that Trump and his enablers—including the attorney general—are demonstrating by their actions that they want to either silence him, misrepresent his written statements, or try to undermine his credibility. The more they do that, the more it becomes imperative that we eventually hear from the man himself.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.