But a potential Mueller hearing offers upside for Republicans, too. Democrats have invested an enormous amount of political capital in making Barr out to be a chief villain of the Russia saga—an effort Barr has certainly assisted over the last weeks with his gratuitous attempts to spin the Mueller report as favorably for the president as possible. But in battling to compel Barr to hand over an unredacted version of the report, Democrats may have overplayed their hand: If Mueller testifies that Barr’s redactions were legally justified and that the substance of his report is faithfully communicated in the public version, it could take a lot of wind out of the Democrats’ sails. (If Mueller testifies otherwise, of course, Republicans will have bigger problems on their hands than parliamentary jockeying—but there’s so far no reason to believe Mueller is sitting on such a bombshell.)

Why, then, are Trump and his allies still averse to hear from Mueller? It’s a matter of inertia: After two years of frantic denouncements of the special counsel as a bloodthirsty partisan witch hunter, they now struggle to see him in any other way.