That message got through. When I asked Pat Swingle, a 71-year-old retired teacher from Jaffrey, New Hampshire, about Mueller’s upcoming testimony, her face lit up. “It’s about time!” she said as she waited in line outside Warren’s event in Peterborough.
I asked what she wanted to hear him say. “That the president obstructed justice,” Swingle replied instantly.
Did she expect him to say that?
“No, I don’t,” Swingle conceded. “I think he’s going to say the same thing he said in his 10-minute comment thing.”
Read: Mueller’s first comments on the Russia investigation
Views about Mueller’s appearance are understandably wrapped up in the related question of impeachment, and on this, the sample of anti-Trump voters in New Hampshire I spoke to largely matched nationwide polling. Most wanted to see the president held accountable in some way, but they did not support starting a process that was doomed to fail in the Senate and that could distract from other issues—including the 2020 election itself. “I think we need to have an election,” said Deborah Cummings, 60, a Massachusetts independent who drove north to see Gillibrand in Concord. “I think impeachment is going to waste a lot of time and money.”
It’s also a tricky topic for the Democratic candidates themselves. Most of the leading contenders have come out in support of beginning impeachment hearings against the president, essentially endorsing the early removal from office of a man whom they are simultaneously running to defeat at the ballot box. Warren was one of the earliest and most vocal backers of impeachment among the top-tier candidates. But over the course of an hour in Peterborough, she never mentioned the subject—or the Mueller investigation at all—and barely invoked the president’s name. Mueller’s name was barely mentioned over two nights at the first Democratic debate in Miami last month.
Gillibrand has also come out in support of impeachment hearings. When I asked her whether New Hampshire voters had brought up the Mueller report and impeachment during her week-long tour of the state, she said she had heard concerns “about attacks on our democracy.”
“I think people are very concerned about Russians trying to harm our elections, trying to subvert our elections,” she said. “And I do think New Hampshire voters are concerned that President Trump does not stand up to Putin or other dictators around the globe.” Gillibrand then reiterated her call for impeachment hearings, although she framed her position less as a means of ousting Trump than of allowing Congress to have a stronger legal case to obtain documents and testimony that the administration is withholding.
Though the Justice Department has not tried to stop Mueller from testifying, it has discouraged two of his deputies from submitting to private interviews with House committees. For Democrats, however, the bigger worry over Mueller is not that the Trump administration will constrain his testimony, but that, with respect to the president, he will constrain himself.