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Mueller Questions Focus on Obstruction 07/19 06:20

   Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee who will question former special 
counsel Robert Mueller next week plan to focus on a narrow set of episodes laid 
out in his report, an effort to direct Americans' attention to what they see as 
the most egregious examples of President Donald Trump's conduct.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee who will 
question former special counsel Robert Mueller next week plan to focus on a 
narrow set of episodes laid out in his report, an effort to direct Americans' 
attention to what they see as the most egregious examples of President Donald 
Trump's conduct.

   The examples from the Mueller report include Trump's directions to White 
House counsel Donald McGahn to have Mueller removed and, later, orders from 
Trump to McGahn to deny that happened. Democrats also will focus questioning on 
a series of meetings Trump had with former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski 
in which the Republican president directed Lewandowski to persuade 
then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit Mueller's investigation.

   Mueller laid out several episodes in which Trump tried to influence his 
investigation and wrote that he could not exonerate the president on 
obstruction of justice.

   Democratic aides say they believe the McGahn and Lewandowski narratives, 
explained in detail in the 448-page report, are clear examples of such 
obstruction and will be easy to understand as lawmakers try to educate the 
American public on a report that they believe most people haven't read. The 
aides requested anonymity to freely discuss members' plans for questioning.

   The House Judiciary and intelligence committees will question Mueller in 
back-to-back hearings July 24. The testimony had been scheduled for July 17 but 
was delayed . Time will be extremely limited under an agreement with Mueller, 
who is a reluctant witness and has said he will stick to the contents of the 
report.

   To effectively highlight what they see as the most damaging parts of the 
report, lawmakers said Thursday that they will have to do something that 
members of Congress aren't used to doing: limit the long speeches and cut to 
the chase.

   "Members just need to focus," said Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democratic 
member of the intelligence panel. "Nobody's watching them. Keep it short, keep 
focused, listen to each other, work together. Make this as productive as 
possible."

   Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat on the Judiciary panel, said: "You 
will find little or no editorializing or speechifying by the members. This is 
all about allowing special counsel Mueller to speak."

   Lawmakers on the Judiciary panel said that they have been working with 
committee staff on which members will ask what. The staff wants to make sure 
that they ask targeted questions, such as on Trump's directions to McGahn and 
Lewandowski.

   "It's going to be fairly scripted," said Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, 
another Democrat on the Judiciary panel. "The main goal is to get Robert 
Mueller to say what Robert Mueller wrote in the Mueller report. And then get it 
on national TV, so people can hear him saying it."

   The Judiciary Committee aides said that they want lawmakers to take multiple 
pieces of information in Mueller's report and connect the dots for viewers. 
Besides the episodes with McGahn and Lewandowski, they said lawmakers also will 
focus on the president's conduct toward his former lawyer Michael Cohen and his 
former campaign manager Paul Manafort. The report looks at how Trump praised 
both men when he perceived they were on his side, contacting Cohen to tell him 
to "stay strong" and publicly praising Manafort for "refusing to break." There 
also were subtle hints that he could pardon each.

   Cohen eventually started cooperating with the government, and Trump then 
publicly called him a "rat" and suggested his family members had committed 
crimes.

   The House intelligence panel, which has fewer members, is expected to focus 
on the first volume of Mueller's report, which details multiple contacts 
between Trump's campaign and Russia. Mueller found that there was not enough 
evidence to establish a conspiracy between the two.

   House intelligence committee aides, who also declined to be identified to 
discuss the confidential preparations, said that lawmakers on that panel are 
expected to focus on those contacts and on what the report says about 
WikiLeaks, the website that released Democratic emails stolen by the Russians.

   As the Democrats methodically work through the highlights of the report, it 
could start to feel a bit like a class: Mueller 101.

   Raskin, a longtime constitutional law professor, says he plans to use some 
visual aids, like posters, to help people better understand what Mueller wrote.

   "We have different kinds of learners out there," Raskin said. "And we want 
people to learn, both in an auditory way but also in a visual way, about these 
dramatic events that Mueller will be discussing."

   Republicans are preparing as well and are expected to focus more on 
Mueller's conclusions --- that there isn't enough evidence of a conspiracy and 
no charges on obstruction --- than the individual episodes detailed. The top 
Republican on the Judiciary panel, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, said his members 
will be asking questions that aim to confirm what is in the report.

   But while the Democrats are eagerly anticipating the opportunity, many of 
the Republicans are weary.

   "Frankly the American people have moved on," Collins said. They "want to get 
it behind us."


(CZ)

 
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