Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., suggested Sunday that former special counsel Robert Mueller III may be invited to testify before his panel, although Graham did not give any details on the timing of any potential invitation.
Graham’s statement came one day after Mueller defended his office’s prosecution of Roger Stone, President Donald Trump’s longtime friend and political adviser, in a Washington Post op-ed.
Trump commuted Stone’s 40-month prison sentence on Friday, using his presidential authority to undermine the unanimous finding by a jury that Stone broke the law multiple times by lying to Congress and obstructing justice.
In his statement Sunday, Graham suggested that he had reconsidered his position on allowing Mueller to testify in light of the former special counsel’s op-ed.
“Apparently Mr. Mueller is willing – and also capable – of defending the Mueller investigation through an oped in the Washington Post,” Graham said. “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.”
Taylor Reidy, a Graham spokeswoman, said a formal invitation to Mueller is in the works but did not provide details on the timing of any potential testimony. There are only about three dozen legislative days remaining for the Senate before the November election.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Graham’s statement. A spokesman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mueller testified before two House committees last year, answering questions about his investigation of Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election. At the time, some Republicans criticized Mueller’s performance, seizing on his halting replies to some questions and his at-times confused demeanor.
Trump’s commutation of Stone’s sentence has triggered a flood of criticism, with Democrats – and a handful of Republicans – in recent days arguing that the move amounted to an abuse of presidential power and an effort to undermine the justice system.
On Sunday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said that “anyone who cares about the rule of law in this country” should be “nauseated” by Trump’s actions in the Stone case.
“The president through this commutation is basically saying, ‘If you lie for me, if you cover up for me, if you have my back, then I will make sure that you get a get-out-of-jail-free card,’ ” Schiff said in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week.” “Other Americans, different standards. Friends of the president’s, accomplices of this president, they get off scot-free.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, also criticized Trump’s commutation of Stone’s sentence, calling it a “problem.”
“The president does have the right, by law, to take the action he took,” Hogan said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.” “That doesn’t mean he should have.”
For Trump to commute the sentence “a couple of months before an election … is certainly going to hurt politically,” Hogan added.
Trump fired back at two of the Republicans who have criticized him – Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania – in a tweet on Saturday night in which he called them “RINO’S,” an acronym that stands for “Republicans in Name Only.”
Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis, meanwhile, rebuked Mueller for writing the op-ed, arguing in an interview Sunday on Fox News Channel that “as a prosecutor, he should be completely disinterested.”
“He should have just remained quiet and allowed the commutation to proceed,” Ellis said of Mueller.
(c) 2020, The Washington Post · Felicia Sonmez