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Tom McClintock accuses Mueller of ‘pettifoggery,’ says he should testify before Congress

Mueller declines to clear Trump in first statements on Russia Investigation

Robert Mueller made his first public statement on the Trump-Russia investigation on May 29, 2019. "Charging the president with a crime was not an option we could consider," he said.
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Robert Mueller made his first public statement on the Trump-Russia investigation on May 29, 2019. "Charging the president with a crime was not an option we could consider," he said.

When it comes to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, one California Republican agrees with leading House Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff on one point.

Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove wants Mueller to testify before Congress after the special counsel spoke publicly for the first time about his investigation into President Donald Trump.

But while Pelosi, the speaker of the House, and Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, praised Mueller in statements Wednesday, McClintock attacked him for his press briefing and the way he has handled the nearly-two-year investigation. McClintock is a member of the House Judiciary Committee that is currently conducting investigations into the White House related to the special counsel’s work.

“Mr. Mueller’s a case study in pettifoggery, and reinforces my position that he should be compelled to testify before Congress,” McClintock said in a statement provided to McClatchy. “Any president can be indicted after he leaves office and it was Mueller’s job to make a recommendation for prosecution, if one existed. He did not.”

“Instead, he prefers to make innuendoes while hiding behind DOJ guidelines and not be questioned,” McClintock continued. “Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.”

McClintock, whose district stretches from Roseville to portions of Fresno County, was referring to Mueller’s comments at the Wednesday morning press conference highlighting a Department of Justice policy barring the federal indictment of a sitting president.

“If we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the President did commit a crime,” Mueller said.

“Under long-standing Department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional,” Mueller continued. “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”

McClintock’s critique of Mueller, a former deputy attorney general and FBI director, was far more pointed than some other House Republicans.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield emphasized Mueller’s announcement Wednesday that he was formally resigning his position as special counsel and did not want to testify on the matter in Congress.

“Today Robert Mueller announced he is closing the Special Counsel’s office and reconfirmed to the American people that his two-year investigation is complete,” McCarthy said in a statement. “The 400-plus page report serves as everything the Special Counsel has to say on the matter.”

McCarthy trained his ire not on the special counsel, but on Democrats, whom he alleged are “more focused on satisfying their deep-rooted disdain for the president than they are with delivering results to better the lives of the American people.”

Rep. Dough La Malfa, who represents Redding and Oroville, said in a statement that “Robert Mueller’s report concludes no wrongdoing, but is being irresponsibly dangled as the excuse for Democrats to maintain their games.”

Neither called for Mueller to testify, as McClintock, Pelosi and Schiff did.

“We look forward to Mueller’s testimony before Congress,” said Schiff, who represents a district in Los Angeles County. “While I understand his reluctance to answer hypotheticals or deviate from the carefully worded conclusions he drew on his charging decisions, there are, nevertheless, a great many questions he can answer that go beyond the report.” Pelosi echoed those sentiments during an event in California.

Mueller, however, made clear that he will resist any further public statements on the report, which set out not only to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election but also whether the president obstructed the investigation into that interference.

“I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak about this matter,” Mueller said. “The report is my testimony.”

Update: This story was updated with the statement from Rep. La Malfa.

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Emily Cadei works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where she covers national politics and policy for McClatchy’s California readers. A native of Sacramento, she has spent more than a decade in D.C. reporting on U.S. elections, Congress and foreign affairs for publications including Newsweek, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call.