Attorney General William Barr said Monday that he was “disappointed” that House Democrats had subpoenaed former special counsel Robert Mueller to testify next week and charged that it had been done to “create some kind of public spectacle.”
“I was disappointed to see him subpoenaed because I don’t think that serves an important purpose, dragging Bob Mueller up if he in fact is going to stick to the report,” Barr told reporters at an event in South Carolina.
“To me the only reason for doing that is to create some kind of public spectacle, and if Bob decides that he doesn’t want to be subject to that then the Department of Justice would certainly back him,” Barr said, though he added that he would not work to block the testimony.
Mueller is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees next week in widely anticipated back-to-back sessions.
It will mark the first time the former special counsel takes questions on his report and investigation, which have cast a pall over the first years of the Trump administration.
In late May, in his only public remarks since the report was released, Mueller expressed reluctance about appearing on Capitol Hill and said that any testimony he would give would not go beyond what was in his team’s more than 400-page report.
Barr has previously said he would not prevent Mueller from testifying and that he would leave the decision up to the former special counsel.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper after the subpoena was announced, President Donald Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow said the White House was also not planning to prevent the testimony.
Trump has slammed the scheduled testimony as more “presidential harassment” and on Monday continued to lambaste the Mueller investigation, calling it “fundamentally illegal” and “A TOTAL SCAM!” in a tweet.
Barr and Mueller, who are longtime friends and colleagues, had been at odds over the handling of the report’s release, and Barr has criticized Mueller for not coming to a conclusion on one of the report’s key questions: whether the President committed obstruction of justice.
Mueller said in his May statement that he could not consider making that conclusion because Justice Department guidelines did not allow him to charge a sitting president, though Barr told CBS News in an interview at the time that, despite the guidelines, Mueller still could have reached a decision about any criminal activity.
As he submitted a summary of the Mueller report to Congress earlier this year, Barr said he had decided, along with then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the investigation from its start, that there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute an obstruction case against the President.
The dispute is one of the reasons Democratic lawmakers are so interested to hear from Mueller next week.
Democrats will also look to Mueller as they wrestle with whether to dive into a politically divisive impeachment process based in part on the findings of the investigation.