WASHINGTON — Former special counsel Robert Mueller is set to testify to Congress on Wednesday, possibly adding fuel to some Democrats' call to launch impeachment proceedings.
Mueller has been rarely seen or heard in public since his two-year investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 presidential campaign, but the former FBI director will sit for hours of questioning before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees to answer questions about his report.
Mueller has said he will not stray beyond the report, but Democrat are hoping his testimony will make its findings more accessible to millions of Americans who may not have read the document or have tuned out earlier news coverage.
Republicans, meanwhile, have followed Trump's lead in trying to discredit Mueller's probe and are likely to use their allotted questioning time during the hearing to sow doubts about the probe's origins and to assert bias among its investigators.
Trump attacked Muelleron Wednesday morning, shortly before the hearings were set to start.
Multiple sources familiar with Trump's thinking characterize him as annoyed but not overly enraged ahead of the former special counsel's testimony.
The president, on one hand, sees the prospect of Democrats overreaching on impeachment post-Mueller as a political winner, but he still finds it "incredibly annoying" and would rather the page be turned on this chapter of his administration, the sources said.
The president is irritated he still has to deal with Mueller more than two years after the special counsel investigation started. There's a "here we go again" exasperation inside the White House, with one person describing a "battle-hardened" atmosphere at this point.
Another person close to the White House said Trump believes Mueller will closely stick to the outlines of what's already been laid out in his report. The president also believes Mueller's investigators are biased against him — a sentiment reflected in Trump's tweet on Tuesday night decrying that a "Never Trumper attorney" — Mueller deputy Aaron Zebley — is being allowed to consult with Mueller during his testimony.
The president also has been engaged in cable coverage ahead of Mueller's testimony, dialed in to Fox News on Tuesday night, and has delivered his own commentary to allies regarding various cable coverage of the former special counsel's testimony.
Trump has repeatedly insisted that Mueller's report "exonerated" him and found "no collusion, no obstruction."
But the report is more nuanced than that.
"While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges," Mueller's team wrote in their report. "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment."
Mueller, a former George W. Bush-appointed FBI Director, was tapped by former Trump-appointed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in 2017 to lead an outside investigation after Trump fired James Comey, who at the time was the director of the FBI and looking into potential collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia.