Just how important are next few days in DC? Well, this "could be one of the most momentous weeks" in the remainder of President Trump's term, one "that could set the tone for the rest of his first term," according to Politico's Playbook blog. The big-ticket item comes Wednesday when Robert Mueller is scheduled to testify for five hours in nationally televised congressional hearings. But also of crucial importance are ongoing negotiations over a budget deal in the final days before the August recess. Details:
- The stakes: In a Mueller preview, NPR notes the political stakes for both parties. Democrats hope viewers will be treated to an anti-Trump narrative that might raise support for impeachment, while Republicans will get a chance to "tar and feather" Mueller and belittle what they've depicted as the "hoax" inquiry.
- Strategies: "Remember, the Mueller report is a one-sided report," said GOP Rep. Doug Collins, per the AP. "It has not been questioned from the other side. This is our chance to do that." Republicans will likely focus on the origins of the Russia investigation and perceived FBI bias. Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, on the other hand, says Mueller's report shows Trump is guilty of "high crimes and misdemeanors" and it's time for Mueller himself to lay out those facts. Democrats will focus on specifics such as Trump's instructions to former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. (McGahn refused.)
- The hurdle: People on both sides, however, should be prepared that Mueller will offer exactly zero bombshells. He already has said he won't say anything beyond the contents of his report, and Axios reports that neither party expects to learn anything new.
- Trump: The president told reporters Monday that he won't be watching and that Democrats were "wasting their time," per the AP. Earlier, he tweeted that Mueller "should not be given another bite at the apple" and predicted that "in the end it will be bad for him and the phony Democrats in Congress who have done nothing but waste time on this ridiculous Witch Hunt."
- 2 hearings: Mueller will actually be testifying at two hearings, one before the House Judiciary Committee and the second before the House Intelligence Committee. The judiciary hearing starts at 8:30am and is scheduled to run three hours, reports CBS News. After a 30-minute break, Mueller is scheduled to testify for two hours before the intelligence panel.
- Questions: The New York Times lists 19 questions it would like Mueller to answer, beginning with, "Why didn't you subpoena the president?" Another: If Trump were an ordinary citizen, "would you have found that there was sufficient evidence to charge him with obstruction of justice?"
- Budget talks: On a separate front, negotiators from the White House and Congress were close to a deal on a budget, one that would suspend the debt limit for two years, reports the Hill. Under the agreement, military and domestic spending would be raised by a total of about $320 billion, per the Wall Street Journal.
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