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With Mueller testimony, can Democrats expect a ‘breakthrough moment’?

The debate over the Mueller report and its political fallout continue. More than three months after the investigation concluded, the former special counsel himself will testify before two congressional committees on July 17. Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the format of the appearances, why Democrats are hoping for a “breakthrough moment” and what Mueller won’t be able to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported, former special counsel Robert Mueller will break his silence again, this time taking questions in testimony next month before two committees in Congress.

    Yamiche Alcindor is here with me now to break down the legal and the political issues at stake.

    Hi, Yamiche.

    So, we know a lot of people are going to be watching the day Robert Mueller testifies. What do we know about the format, what this testimony is going to look like?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, on July 17, we know that Washington is really going to be at a standstill, because everyone wants to know what Robert Mueller is going to say when he's testifying before Congress.

    What we know is that it's going to be two separate hearings. One — first, he's going to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Then, in the same room, the House Intel Committee is going to question him.

    From there, we know that they're going to go into at least one or possibly two executive sessions. These are going to be closed-door sessions with Robert Mueller's team. He may or may not be part of those sessions. Those sessions are going to be talking about classified information, possibly, possibly talking about the redacted portions of the report that the public hasn't seen, and also talking about ongoing criminal investigations that might be involving Trump's associates.

    So the other thing that we know is that we're not sure whether or not the White House and the DOJ are going to have lawyers present for this testimony. That's very important, because White House lawyers have stopped people like Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director, from answering some questions.

    So it's going to be something very close to watch, whether or not they're allowed in the room.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, what do Democrats think that they're going to get? What do they think he's going to say? And how are Democrats reacting to the fact that they even got this agreement for him to testify? And what are Republicans and the president saying?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, Democrats are really hoping for a breakthrough moment, where Robert Mueller really says something very important.

    And the Republicans are essentially saying this is all a waste of time. On the Democratic side, one aide summed it up to me this way. She said, most people don't read the book, but they watch the movie.

    So, essentially, what they're saying is, Robert Mueller, even though he put out this 448-page report and spoke to the public for 10 minutes, they want him to really explain to people what he found, what his team of investigators found, as they were interviewing people in the White House.

    So they're going to be asking him all sorts of questions about the report. So, even if he doesn't say anything new, Democrats are going to be happy about that.

    On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani texted me yesterday. And he said, "Who cares?" when I asked him whether or not he had comment on this. President Trump has also said, why is Robert — why is Robert Mueller having to testify? It's ongoing.

    He also accused Robert Mueller of wrongdoing and said that he unfairly and illegally deleted e-mails between two FBI officials who had been talking disparagingly about the president.

    It's important to note there's no evidence that Robert Mueller had any wrongdoing or did anything wrong as former special counsel, but the president's putting that out — putting that out there.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, bottom line, Yamiche, what do they expect Robert Mueller can say? What do they expect him to say?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, here's what Robert Mueller had to say on May 29, when he was — when he was talking about that very issue.

  • Robert Mueller:

    Any testimony from this office wouldn't 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.

    And the report is my testimony.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So, former DOJ officials have been telling "NewsHour" that he can't talk about ongoing criminal investigations or classified information, but anything else that he decides he doesn't want to talk about, that's Robert Mueller's judgment.

    So it sounds there that he doesn't want to go past his report. But that's really going to be a judgment on his part.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But they're going to be trying to push him on some things about why he made certain decisions.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Absolutely, including, why didn't he subpoena the president to sit down for an in-person interview as part of the investigation?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor reporting for us on all this, thank you very much.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And in a related development today, executives of top tech companies Facebook, Google, and Twitter in an appearance before Congress expressed concerns that Russia would repeat what it did in 2016, use tonight's debate to begin to foment political conflict in the U.S. using social media.

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