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In high-stakes Mueller testimony, there are big risks for everyone

Chris Strohm and Billy House, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Robert Mueller has vowed he won't go beyond what he's already written about Russia, Donald Trump and obstruction of justice when he testifies on Wednesday, but there's a lot at stake in how much -- or how little -- he brings to life the dry specifics of his 448-page report.

The former special counsel is scheduled to testify for a total of five hours before two Democratic-led U.S. House panels -- the Judiciary Committee from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Washington time and the smaller Intelligence Committee from noon to 2 p.m.

Here are some of the potential risks that the nationally televised hearings pose for the main actors:

-- Trump's exoneration claims in doubt

Mueller can be expected to contradict Trump's frequent -- and erroneous -- claim that he found "no collusion, no obstruction." In fact, Mueller found that people in the Trump campaign had many contacts with Russians and openly sought their assistance. But he said there was insufficient evidence to conclude that those around Trump conspired in Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller also documented at least 10 alleged acts by Trump to obstruct justice and said he couldn't exonerate the president on the obstruction issue. Democrats will push him to elaborate on what some read as a pointed hint in his report that Congress has the authority to act.

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Trump, who acknowledged Monday that "probably, I'll see a little" of Mueller's testimony, repeated that the special counsel found "no collusion, no obstruction." He said "the Democrats were devastated by it. They went crazy."

-- Democrats risk a dud -- or impeachment frenzy

Democrats argue that even a dry recital by Mueller of his key findings would bring fresh attention to a report so long and dense that few Americans have actually read it. There's a chance, however, that most Americans have already made their judgments about Russian meddling and Trump and have moved on.

On the other hand, Mueller may provide fresh momentum for congressional Democrats to open proceedings to impeach the president. Impeachment is an option that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has resisted so far because of her belief it would prove futile, and politically damaging to her party, unless dramatic new evidence emerges that would lead to Trump's removal from office by the Republican-controlled Senate.

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