When Democrats took control of the House in 2018, the response of many Democrats was “Oh boy, here we go!” Subpoenas would be fired at the White House. Hearings exposing administration wrongdoing would dominate the news. Getting President Trump’s tax returns would be the first order of business, but only the prelude. At last, accountability would arrive.
Yet it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Oddly enough, few seemed to anticipate that Trump would simply refuse to honor congressional subpoenas, as though we thought he might actually comply with the law. And what happened to all those blockbuster hearings?
There have been some, but they haven’t been dramatic enough to garner the interest of the news media in the way many Democrats hoped. Which is why it’s significant that Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, seems to be done waiting:
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Tuesday said his panel is planning to hold a “series of hearings” on the first volume of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report examining Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.
Schiff said the first hearing will focus on the original counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling, saying his panel has been unable to get an answer from the FBI or the intelligence community on what became of the original probe.
This comes after the House Judiciary Committee announced Monday that next week it will hold a hearing on the portion of the Mueller report that concerns obstruction of justice, though it still hasn’t been determined whether former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III himself will testify.
Needless to say, if the president and his allies were telling the truth when they claim that the special counsel found no obstruction of justice and no collusion with the Russians, then they would welcome these hearings. Wouldn’t it only bolster their case to have testimony from Mueller in which he proclaimed Trump’s innocence, and expert witnesses who could explain how all his actions were, to quote the president, “very legal & very cool”?
But they aren’t welcoming the hearings, because they know that their spin on the Mueller report is intentionally misleading, on both topics. And in both cases there are many questions that still need to be explored more fully in a public setting.
Hearings like these always have two purposes: finding facts and disseminating facts. While it may be that the Intelligence and Judiciary committees will uncover new information, even if the hearings do no more than provide a forum to delve into the findings in the Mueller report, they’ll still provide an important service.
If more than one in a thousand Americans actually read the full Mueller report, I’d be surprised. Everyone else is learning about it from sources that in some cases have an interest in distorting what it said.
You may have heard the priceless quote from a constituent of Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), the first Republican to support Trump’s impeachment. “I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump. I hadn’t heard that before," she told NBC News. "I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report and President Trump has been exonerated.” There are millions like her.
And let’s not forget that despite the fact that Mueller has left the Justice Department, this is an ongoing issue, on both the collusion and obstruction fronts.
In the latest example, Jared Kushner was asked by Jonathan Swan of Axios whether he would call the FBI if he again received an invitation to conspire with Russian efforts to interfere in the next election. Kushner answered, “I don’t know. It’s hard to do hypotheticals.”
In other words, all indications are that the 2020 Trump campaign is ready and eager to get help from the Kremlin — or any other foreign country, for that matter — to win reelection.
On obstruction of justice, let’s not forget that while there may no longer be a special counsel investigation to obstruct, Trump is still trying to keep the truth hidden. The White House just ordered former communication director Hope Hicks and the former chief of staff to the White House counsel to defy congressional subpoenas for documents relating to the Mueller probe. In other words, they instructed the former staffers to break the law, and at the moment it looks as though the staffers will do so.
So yes, we need public hearings on the Mueller report. Because the full truth still hasn’t been exposed to the light.