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What to Expect From Robert Mueller’s Congressional Testimony Today

Robert Mueller looks pissed off about having to speak into this microphone.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller is spending the day in Congress today, talking first to the House Judiciary Committee starting at 8:30 am Eastern. That session is scheduled to last three hours, and then he’ll move over to the House Intelligence Committee, where he’ll be questioned for another two hours. It’s going to be a day, and you can watch it live here:

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We’ll have updates later, but it’s important to know why this is happening in the first place. If you believe Donald Trump and a bunch of other Republicans, it’s because the Democrats want a “do-over.”

In reality, the findings of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in 2016 presidential election weren’t honestly presented by Attorney General Bill Barr. Barr eventually released a version of the report to Congress and the public, and even though it was heavily redacted, lawmakers could tell that there was a lot of damning evidence that most definitely does not support Trump’s oft-repeated claims of “NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION.” So, they’ve brought Mueller in for some questions so he can make the actual content and context of his report clear.

Back in May, Mueller gave a press conference, which was the first and only time he’s commented on his investigation since concluding it. He didn’t comment on anything outside of his documented findings, but still managed to make it clear that his point hadn’t seemed to get through yet—most notably, with this statement:

“As set forth in the report after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” he said. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”

At the time, Mueller said that “any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report,” and he’s only speaking to Congress now after a subpoena and negotiations, so we shouldn’t expect him to drop any bombshell revelations that weren’t already included in the original report, but that absolutely doesn’t mean today isn’t important or that it won’t give us anything new to think about.

For one thing, it’s not like Democrats won’t try to get new information out of Mueller while he’s under oath. The Justice Department has instructed Mueller not to speak about any of the redacted parts of the report, citing “executive privilege,” a thing numerous Democrats have said they don’t believe applies.

(For some context, “executive privilege” sounds like a very official term, but it’s also the thing that White House lawyers said prohibited Hope Hicks from talking about things like the weather and the location of her desk, so we can probably expect some Democrats to challenge the idea today.)

There’s also the unfortunate truth that, even though 400+ pages of pretty damning evidence regarding Russian election interference and the president’s obstruction of Mueller’s investigation have already been released, very few Americans have actually taken the time to read (or listen to, or watch) the full report, and because the possibility of impeachment proceedings rests so heavily on public approval, it would be really great if today’s proceedings could gain some traction. We don’t want lawmakers to waste time showing off and grandstanding, but if we can get some meaningful bits of good questioning to break through the noise and go even mildly viral, it could go a long way to moving that dial.

So today, it’s the expectation that the first round of testimony and questioning by the Judiciary Committee will focus on obstruction of justice, and that the afternoon Intelligence Committee portion will center on Russian interference and whether Donald Trump and/or any of his associates/relatives were involved.

It was also announced last night that Mueller’s deputy, Aaron Zebley, will be sworn in for the second session, and then presumably also open to questioning.

According to CNN, many Democrats have been aggressively preparing for today’s testimony. Whether it makes a difference in terms of public perception, we’ll have to wait and see. With that, I’ll leave you with my favorite tweet of the year:

(image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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