In his testimony before Congress Wednesday, former special counsel Robert Mueller revealed that during his 22-month-long investigation, he did not issue a subpoena to President Donald Trump because he believed legal challenges by the White House would prolong the completion of the probe.
“We were working toward the end of our investigation and we’d had little success,” Mueller told lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee of obtaining an in-person interview with Trump. “We decided that we did not want to exercise the subpoena powers because of the necessity of expediting the end of the investigation.”
The rules governing investigations by special counsels state they are supposed to be “conducted ably, expeditiously and thoroughly,” a point that Mueller said he “continually stressed” to his team “throughout the investigation.”
“We needed to do our work as thoroughly as possible and as expeditiously as possible,” he said in his opening remarks to the House Judiciary Committee, which he testified to prior to House Intelligence. “It was in the public interest for our investigation to be complete, but not to last a day longer than necessary.”
As is documented in the 448-page report, Trump answered certain written questions, but he refused to answer others based on the topic. Mueller testified Wednesday that the president also did not respond to a round of follow-up questions.
“The expectation was,” Mueller continued, “if we did subpoena the president, he would fight the subpoena and we would be in the midst of the investigation for a substantial period of time.”
The failure to subpoena the president frustrated Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the Intelligence Committee.
“I personally thought that he should take longer time. I didn’t understand what the rush was,” the Illinois Democrat told reporters. “I think that that in-person interview, or subpoenaing the president is vital because that’s how you ascertain the President’s intent. I find that to be a little frustrating.”
In the report about questioning the president, Mueller stated: “During the course of our discussions, the President did agree to answer written questions on certain Russia-related topics, and he provided us with answers. He did not similarly agree to provide written answers to questions on obstruction topics or questions on events during the transition.”
“Ultimately, while we believed that we had the authority and legal justification to issue a grand jury subpoena to obtain the President’s testimony, we chose not to do so,” the report continued. “We made that decision in view of the substantial delay that such an investigative step would likely produce at a late stage in our investigation. We also assessed that based on the significant body of evidence we had already obtained of the President’s actions and his public and private statements describing or explaining those actions, we had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President’s testimony.”
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