President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he was against Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifying to the US Congress, escalating tensions with the Democrats.
Trump's comments represent a reversal from his previous position on the issue, as he said on Friday that he would leave the decision up to Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department.
"Are they looking for a redo because they hated seeing the strong NO COLLUSION conclusion?" the president tweeted, in relation to his claim that the report cleared him of any wrongdoing.
"Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!" Trump wrote.
The Mueller report was released last month and it detailed Russian efforts to help Trump win the 2016 election, but it did not find that Trump and his campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow.
On the question of obstruction of justice, Mueller did not make a conclusion and left it up to the Justice Department and, presumably, Congress to answer that question.
Read more: Opinion: We don't need the Mueller report
But Attorney General Barr nevertheless cleared Trump on the obstruction of justice case, setting off protests by the Democrats, who summoned him to a hearing in the Senate last week. He later refused to appear at a hearing in the House of Representatives.
Clash with Democrats
The Democrats accuse Barr of shielding Trump and undermining the attorney general's traditional independence.
Barr is still Mueller's boss at the Justice Department and could presumably block him from testifying.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to the president's tweet with his own, saying that Trump was "trying to silence Mueller."
"For a man who constantly proclaims his innocence, @realDonaldTrump is acting awfully guilty. Mueller must testify publicly before Congress," Schumer wrote.
House Democrats are expected to move ahead with summoning Mueller, possibly as soon as May 15 but no later than May 23.
The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, confirmed last week that the committee was "firming up the date."
jcg/bw (Reuters, AP, AFP)