When former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees on Wednesday — as is scheduled — many Americans will be on summer vacation.
Most likely, they did not take along copies of Mueller’s 448-page report, or one of the 40,000 copies sold in book form.
Still, watching Wednesday’s hearings will be an opportunity for a divided citizenry to learn more in depth about Mueller’s investigation, Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible presidential conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Many polls suggest Republicans and Democrats remain split along party lines about the report. But only 51 percent of people polled thought the report was fair and even-handed, according to a Washington Post-ABC News survey conducted in the week after the release. If handled well, maybe the hearings will change a few minds. At the very least, this is a chance for Congress to show itself worthy of asking important questions.
Here is what members of both committees should ask Mueller:
1. With the benefit of several weeks as a private citizen and some distance from the process, is there anything in the report you want to change or emphasize? Has media reporting on the report been accurate?
2. Why did you stop short of making a determination about whether President Donald Trump committed a crime? Did you intend to write a cliffhanger and let Congress decide the final question of obstruction of justice?
3. Is Russia the real villain in your made-for-TV report, and, if so, what do you suggest we do to prevent Russian meddling in the 2020 election?
Truth be told, I don’t have high expectations for the ratings on these hearings, nor for the impact. Mueller is a buttoned-up guy and not likely to loosen his tie. But there is always a chance that some heat and light creep into the hearing rooms and that we all come away better informed about Russia.
If nothing else, the hearings might sell a few more copies of the Mueller report or the audiobook.
Tara D. Sonenshine, a former U.S. undersecretary of state, advises students at The George Washington University.