Dems plot strategy for grilling Mueller ahead of highly-anticipated testimony

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When former special counsel Robert Mueller appears next week for expected testimony on Capitol Hill, Democrats are hoping to animate the words on the page of Mueller’s report into something the public remembers.

They are anticipating that Mueller — who led the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and other issues involving Trump associates — will mostly stick to the report and give yes or no answers, while referring lawmakers to specific pages when they pose questions.

But Fox News is told the Democrats on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees are expected to focus on five areas in the report having to do with “obstruction,” rather than on accusations of collusion with the Russians, in an attempt to expose wrongdoing by the president.

Among the topics they are expected to focus on: Trump’s reported call to then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller; the claim the president ordered McGahn to deny he told him to try to get rid of Mueller; allegations the president told former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to instruct then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to curb the probe; the dangling of pardons to former campaign manager Paul Manafort; and allegations of witness tampering, including with Manafort.

Fox News is told that lawmakers may be more prepared for this hearing than any other hearing in recent history. They do not expect Mueller to get into methodology and process. But, if something is in the report, it is fair game for questioning, they believe.

The hearings had been originally scheduled for July 17, but were pushed back amid concern from some lawmakers that they might not have enough time carved out to ask questions.

The plan is for Mueller to testify in public before the House Judiciary Committee for two hours or more, followed by another two hours-plus of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in an open setting.

Mueller has only spoken in public once about his investigation – in May, when he signaled his disinterest in testifying, saying, “There has been a discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself.”

Still, Democrats – as some in the party push to impeach President Trump – subpoenaed Mueller to testify.

During his press conference in May, Mueller said there “was not sufficient evidence to charge a conspiracy” over whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election. His language on the question of whether the president obstructed justice nevertheless left the issue open and was seen by Democrats as a cue to keep digging.

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