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Talking to Mueller would have been ‘a trap’ for Trump, says Rep. Johnson

Now that Robert Mueller’s appearance before Congress has concluded, we turn to lawmakers of both parties for their reactions. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., was a constitutional attorney for 20 years before being elected to Congress in 2016. A member of the House Judiciary Committee, Johnson joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his “main takeaway” from the hearings and what he thinks Congress should do next.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now let us get reaction from lawmakers from both political parties.

    We start with Representative Mike Johnson, Republican from Louisiana. He is a member of the Judiciary Committee. Before his election to Congress in 2016, he was a constitutional attorney for 20 years. He questioned Robert Mueller earlier today.

    And he joins us now from Capitol Hill.

    So, Congressman Johnson, your main takeaway from the former special counsel's testimony?

  • Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.:

    The main takeaway is, there were not many surprises.

    Many of us expected that Mr. Mueller would stick to the four corners of his document. He said as much in the weeks preceding today's events. And he did exactly that. I don't think he offered anything new.

    And I think that some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, our Democrat friends, expected much more of today. And I don't think they got what they were after.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You said earlier today — I was looking at a quote from an interview you gave. You said there would be great frustration that you couldn't answer any questions about — this is what you said to Robert Mueller — that he couldn't answer any questions about the origins of what you called this charade.

    Why were you focused on the origins?

  • Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.:

    Well, there's a lot of people in this country that are deeply concerned about that, because it goes to the integrity of the investigation itself.

    The origin of it is what everyone has heard now, the dirty dossier, the Christopher Steele dossier, that had a political origin. It was a document that was created as a hack job, and it has no real credibility. That was the foundation for what started the whole Russian collusion investigation.

    He mentioned it in his report in a number of places, but he was unwilling to talk about it today. And I think that's a source of frustration for a lot of people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How credible did you find Robert Mueller?

  • Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.:

    Look, Mr. Mueller as an individual is someone who deserves all of our admiration and respect. He served his country admirably in the military and in so many respects, in so many positions.

    But I think today was a difficult day for him. I think it showed in his face, on his countenance. I think the weight of this has been pretty heavy on him. I think he's very relieved today. But I think his performance is something that everyone will be talking about and critiquing for some time.

    And I'm not sure, again, it's what Chairman Nadler and our Democrat friends wanted to come out of it today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, did it concern you, though, when he said on several occasions that he didn't find the president's answers — this is particularly toward the end of the day — when he said he didn't find the president's answers — that he had been given written questions because he couldn't get an in-person interview.

    He didn't find all those answers credible and that, generally, he found some of the president's answers to be not truthful.

  • Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.:

    Well, look, everyone has — is able to read the report now. We have all now seen the daylong hearing, and people are going to draw their own conclusions.

    As an individual, he has that same right. And prosecutors do that every day. He did have the ability to subpoena the president. And there was an exchange today where he explained, I think, why he chose not to do that. But if the written responses were not what he was expecting, he could have gone further. He didn't.

    And now we have to live with the results of the report.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But didn't he say very clearly that that was because he was under pressure not to let this investigation go on any longer than necessary?

  • Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.:

    Well, look, it went on for 22 months. He spent $30 million and an inordinate amount of time and resources, taxpayer dollars that are precious resources.

    Look, he had an unlimited an exhaustive amount of time and everything he needed to follow the facts where they led. He came up with a report. It's nearly 450 pages' long. And now we have all gone through it in gross detail. I'm not sure there's much more to do or to talk about here.

    And we hope that we can move on to the important work of the American people. The Judiciary Committee, where we have the hearing today, has one of the broadest jurisdictions in Congress and so many pressing issues, including immigration and border security, that we have not been able to get to, because we have been mired in all of this.

    We hope that we can turn the page and move on to something else.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you think the president should have met with Mr. Mueller in person, answered questions in person?

  • Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.:

    I think any president in his position probably would have avoided that.

    It's a trap often in situations like that, certainly when you're talking about a chief executive. And I know why his lawyers advised him not to do it.

    But we will all have our own opinions about that decision, ultimately, and what it means for the report.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    At this point, we are hearing from our Lisa Desjardins, who covers the Capitol for us, that Democrats plan to try to subpoena Don McGahn, who was the president's former White House counsel, other people close to or who worked for the president.

    Are those — from your perspective, are those going to be productive steps?

  • Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.:


    I think that we are losing the patience of the American people. I think at least half the country and maybe a growing number is ready for us to move on, because we're miring, as I said, the time of this important committee into all of these endless hearings.

    I do think the Democrats, for political reasons, want to drag this into the election cycle, because I think it's part of their strategy. But I don't think it's going to work. And I think it's going to frustrate more and more people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But don't you — let me just play devil's advocate.

    Don't you think it's important to try to get to the bottom of some of these important questions, even if it means bringing people before the Congress to directly answer questions?

  • Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.:

    Well, if the special counsel, with a huge team of investigators, lawyers and agents and 500 witness depositions and everything they did for nearly two years and $30 million, could not get down to the bottom of it, I'm not sure what a handful of members of Congress are going to be able to do in a limited hearing time.

    So I think we have gotten enough of this. And I think, at the end of the day, that will be the conclusion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, we thank you very much.

  • Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.:

    Thank you.

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