Special Counsel Robert Mueller has agreed to testify before Congress for what is sure to be a blockbuster hearing – to be conducted in public.
House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerold Nadler released the information in a letter he posted online Tuesday. He says the testimony will occur July 17 – providing Democrats the televised event they have been looking for to dramatize Mueller's findings for the broader public.
The move follows what Nadler says was a subpoena to force his testimony – following weeks of negotiations with Mueller, who did not want to answer questions about his work in an open hearing. Mueller is now in private life, having left the Justice Department after overseeing a nearly two-year probe.
Democrats have been girding to ask him questions about the decision not to charge Trump with obstruction of justice but instead defer to internal guidelines against charging a sitting president with a crime.
President Trump responded with a single phrase on Twitter: 'Presidential Harassment!'
Mueller said last month in his only statement since issuing his bombshell report: 'The report is my testimony ... So beyond what is said here today and what is contained in our written work, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further.'
Wrote Nadler Tuesday: 'I am pleased to announce that @HouseJudiciary and House Intel will have Special Counsel Robert Mueller testify in open session on July 17, pursuant to a subpoena issued this evening.'
'We look forward to having Mr. Mueller testify, as do all Americans,' he added.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff said it was not a 'friendly' subpoena that brought Mueller to the table, saying Mueller was 'deeply reluctant' to testify.
'I don't think the special counsel's office considers it a friendly subpoena,' he told CNN. He was and is deeply reluctant to come testify, but nevertheless he has agreed to respect the subpoena,' Schiff said.
He said the two congressional committees would hear from Mueller in public in back-to-back hearings, with Judiciary likely going first.
Nadler told the network: 'I think he'll answer the questions that are put to him because it's his civic duty to do so and he's an upstanding prosecutor.'
'Mueller is an honest upstanding citizen and he will testify in response to the subpoena that we issued. He is not going to let the White House or anybody else tell him to defy a lawful subpoena,' Nadler added.
Nadler wrote: 'Americans have demanded to hear directly from the Special Counsel so they can understand what he and his team examined, uncovered, and determined about Russia's attack on our democracy, the Trump campaign's acceptance and use of that help, and President Trump and his associates' obstruction of the investigation into that attack.
His announcement comes days after former Trump press secretary Hope Hicks testified before his committee in private – drawing criticism from some fellow Democrats who said the closed meeting deprived them of the ability to draw attention to what is in the report.
Mueller has resisted efforts to appear during weeks of negotiations. He delivered a brief statement to the press weeks after the release of the report – and after Attorney General Bill Barr released his own letter summarizing findings.
Nadler and Schiff of California have since tried to persuade Mueller to appear – even as the White House executed a strategy of holding back other potential key witnesses from testifying.
The public event may give the Democrats the best chance yet to shine a light on derogatory information contained within the Mueller report, which Trump has called a 'complete exoneration.'
Mueller examined 10 different episodes of potential obstruction of justice – including efforts by Trump to get his attorney general to un-recuse himself and regain control of the Russia probe, push out Mueller himself, and get White House counsel Don McGahn to issue a statement that contradicted stating that Trump never tried to get him to fire Mueller.
Barr, who stated that the Mueller found no collusion had occurred and determined not to charge the president with obstruction, testified before the Senate but has yet to testify before the Demoratic-controlled House.
The White House counsel's office has instructed multiple other witnesses, including McGahn, not to appear, while also holding back documents that Democrats say are critical to their own probes.
News comes just days before Trump is set to hold yet another meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Mueller report in its first volume details the efforts by a Russian troll farm to interfere in the 2016 presidential election through social media posts, fake rallies, racially divisive social media campaigns, and a hacking operation that put out thousands of Demoratic emails.
The report also details how the St. Petersburg-based troll farm and hacking operation got funded by a key ally of Putin's.
Trump told NBC's 'Meet the Press' he 'may' raise election interference with Russia during their meeting in Japan this week.
Wrote Schiff: 'Robert Mueller has agreed to testify before Congress pursuant to subpoena. Russia attacked our democracy to help Trump win. Trump welcomed and used that help. As Mueller said, that should concern every American. And now, every American will get to hear directly from Mueller.'
Barr has said repeatedly he would leave it up to Mueller whether he wants to testify.
One area lawmakers are certain to explore in testimony are apparent differences between Mueller and Barr, who have been friends for years and whose wives in the past have attended bible study together.
Mueller wrote Barr following the Attorney General's 4-page March 24 summary of the report, before it was made public.
Mueller told Barr his letter – 'did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance' of his 448-page report.
'There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations,' he said.
Mueller said in his own press statement that he would not speak beyond the contents of his report. However, Schiff said lawmakers were not bound to respect his wishes.
'There's no limitation on confining his testimony to the four corners of the report. That may be his desire,' said Schiff.
In addition to two back-to-back sessions, Schiff said there would be an opportunity for a closed session with staff to allow for discussion of classified matters. The report contains significant redactions, and even the copies provided to Congress were partially redacted, although most of the report is out.
Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia issued a statement on Mueller's appearance saying: 'Three months after the special counsel completed his investigation, two months after the attorney general made the less redacted report available to congressional leadership, and two months after I asked Chairman Nadler to invite Robert Mueller to testify, we may actually get to hear from the author of the report.'
Collins added: 'While the special counsel found that no Americans conspired with Russia to attempt to interfere in our elections, many have willfully misrepresented that conclusion while Democrats have neglected their responsibility to safeguard future elections from foreign influence. I hope the special counsel's testimony marks an end to the political gamesmanship that Judiciary Democrats have pursued at great cost to taxpayers. May this testimony bring to House Democrats the closure that the rest of America has enjoyed for months, and may it enable them to return to the business of legislating.'
Said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: 'We are pleased that the American people will hear directly from Special Counsel Mueller. Our national security is being threatened and the American people deserve answers.'
She continued: 'The Mueller Report revealed that the Russians waged a 'sweeping and systematic' attack on our elections, and America's top intelligence and law enforcement officials have warned that the Russians will attack our elections again. Yet, sadly the President calls it a hoax, and suggests that he would welcome Russian interference again.
'Members of Congress must honor our oath and our patriotic duty to follow the facts, so we can protect our democracy,' Pelosi concluded.