Washington • Rep. Chris Stewart says he wants special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before Congress but for far different reasons than Democrats.
The Utah Republican says Mueller should come before Congress to explain why he didn’t investigate alleged spying on President Donald Trump’s campaign, a dossier partially funded by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign and why Mueller continued the probe after he discovered there was no “conspiracy/collusion” that occurred.
“The American people deserve answers,” Stewart wrote in a Facebook post.
Democrats are demanding that Mueller, a former FBI director who spent 22 months investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election and any possible ties with the Trump team, appear before congressional committees and answer questions about his findings.
Mueller, citing long-standing Justice Department protocol, did not recommend obstruction charges against the president, though he detailed multiple attempts by the president to thwart the investigation. So far, 34 people and three entities have been indicted, found guilty or entered plea deals as part of the Mueller investigation, and some probes continue in New York.
Stewart, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and has defended Trump, says Mueller needs to testify publicly so Congress can understand the origins of the investigation and specifically about assertions that the FBI was surveilling Trump’s campaign.
“There’s lots of questions we would like to ask him,” Stewart said on Facebook. “Why didn’t he investigate the authenticity and reliability of the Steele Dossier? When did he first realize that conspiracy/collusion did not occur? Why did he not investigate or provide information on DOJ/Intelligence assets being run as spies into the Trump campaign? The American people deserve answers.”
The Steele Dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, was an uncorroborated opposition research report, partially paid for by the Clinton camp and the Democratic National Committee, that looked at Trump's ties with Russia. Mueller did not mention that dossier in his 448-page report.
Attorney General William Barr told a Senate panel that there was “spying” of the Trump campaign but offered no evidence of any wrongdoing. The president has doubled down on Barr’s comments and called for an investigation of the investigators.
That was countered Tuesday by FBI Director Chris Wray, who said that he did not consider court-approved surveillance to be spying.
“That’s not the term I would use,” said Wray, a Trump appointee.
Pressed on whether there was any illegal surveillance, Wray said, “I don't think I personally have any evidence of that sort.”
Utah's other members of Congress weren't jumping at the bit to have Mueller testify, nor arguing he shouldn't.
“Congressman [Ben] McAdams is open to hearing from special counsel Mueller if that offers additional transparency for the public,” said Alyson Heyrend, a spokeswoman for Utah’s only Democrat in Congress.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, had said when a redacted version of the Mueller report was publicly released that he considered the matter closed.
“I am encouraged that we may now turn the page on this distracting chapter of U.S. history,” Bishop said at the time, adding that since Mueller found no “collusion and no obstruction,” it was time to move forward.
Asked Tuesday if Mueller should come before Congress, Bishop's office issued a one-sentence statement.
“Whether or not Mueller testifies, I stand by my original statement,” it said.
Many Republicans have chimed in with similar sentiments as Bishop: It's time to move on.
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, said that if Mueller believes his findings have been misrepresented, he should speak out. But otherwise, he considers the matter done.
“As it stands, we have access to the 450-page Mueller report, which was the culmination of a two-year, $25 million investigation by a highly revered and respected special counsel, who had the support of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress for the duration of his efforts,” Curtis said. “I stood by that investigation because I believe the people of Utah have an absolute right to the truth, and now that the investigation has concluded, I believe it is time for Congress to honor the results of that investigation, come together, and move on to other pressing issues affecting the American people."
The investigation did cost taxpayers more than $20 million, though convictions and plea deals are likely to reap the government more money in the end in seized assets.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday there was no reason to keep the Mueller probe on the agenda now that the special counsel has finished his work and given a redacted report.
“Two years of exhaustive investigation, and nothing to establish the fanciful conspiracy theory that Democratic politicians and TV talking heads had treated like a foregone conclusion,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “They told everyone there’d been a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign. Yet on this central question, the special counsel’s finding is clear: Case closed.”