Vent in haste, repent at leisure. House Democrat Jim Himes withstands a gale-force righteous rant from MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough about Robert Mueller’s disinclination to testify before Congress before gently pointing out that it’s misdirected. The Morning Joe host rails on about forcing Mueller to testify about “ten examples of the president of the United States obstructing justice,” and practically shouts at the Connecticut Democrat, “Why don’t you subpoena him?”
“It’s going to happen,” Himes finally says, “he’s going to get subpoenaed.” But when Himes tells Scarborough that the testimony will be behind closed doors, Joe begins to flip out again — until Himes explains that his committee has nothing to do with obstruction of justice issues:
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) June 19, 2019
Himes serves on the House Intelligence Committee, not the Judiciary Committee. Scarborough’s rant should have been directed to a member of the latter, most especially chair Jerrold Nadler. A subpoena from Himes’ committee to explore the special-counsel report would require a closed session to delve into anything not already covered in Mueller’s report, and would relate to the Russia-collusion hypothesis rather than obstruction. Mueller found no evidence of any intent by the campaign to collude with Russian intelligence, which is why Democrats and other opponents of Trump — such as Scarborough — have focused all their attention on obstruction instead.
The demand for a subpoena is still mystifying even in the context of obstruction, however. Scarborough angrily dismisses Mueller’s statement that the special-counsel report is his testimony, arguing that not everyone has had a chance to read its 500 pages. It’s been two months since the report’s release; those who are interested in the report have had plenty of time to read it. If there’s a member of Congress who has not yet read the report, it’s out of sloth rather than a lack of opportunity. And if they haven’t read it, how would they understand the context of Mueller’s conclusions well enough to comprehend his testimony, let alone formulate questions for Mueller to answer under subpoena?
And why is it Mueller’s problem that people haven’t read the report? The Washington Post’s version hit #1 on the New York Times’ best seller list, and it’s still in Amazon’s top 20 as of this morning, even though it’s also free here. (The Alan Dershowitz version sold like hot cakes, too.)
Anyway, Mueller has never said he wouldn’t honor a subpoena. All Mueller said was that the report fully explains his conclusions, and that further action is out of his hands. He offered to brief Judiciary but only in closed session, as Mueller understandably doesn’t want to get into the center ring of the partisan circus. Nadler and Intel chair Adam Schiff have attempted to negotiate his appearance without resort to a subpoena, but thus far Mueller’s just not volunteering for the task. If he gets drafted, so be it, but it’s not likely to produce anything other than what Mueller put in the report — which, as a DoJ institutionalist, he sees as the outer boundary of a prosecutor when no indictment will be issued.
At this point, one has to suspect that Nadler and Schiff see less value in a Mueller subpoena than they’re letting on. Mueller’s not likely to give them anything more, and it would allow Republicans to ask a lot of questions about the origins of the FBI’s interest in the Trump campaign and perhaps misconduct regarding the FISA warrant and bias within the bureau. Better to take Mueller’s report as their own launching pad while it still puts them ahead of the game.