Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) said Sunday that he has not read former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report because large investigations can find bad things and members of Congress should instead focus on legislation.
Woodall’s comments contradict his own previous statements on the matter, as well as his behavior more broadly over his eight-and-a-half years in Congress.
Woodall, who narrowly avoided defeat last November and subsequently announced he would not seek a fifth term in 2020, was asked on MSNBC about the Mueller report and its 10 documented examples involving President Donald Trump that may have constituted obstruction of justice.
The Georgia congressman dismissed the allegations, saying they were not his problem.
“I trusted Mr. Mueller, he took a lot of slings and arrows throughout this process, but every U.S. attorney I knew said this is a man of great integrity. He’s gonna lead this investigation,” he said.
However, Woodall continued, he had not bothered to read Mueller’s 400-plus page final report because, as he put it, “I have a concern when you put the entire power of the United States Justice Department behind anything, you can achieve an agenda. You can drive a message.”
Woodall attempted to justify that ignorance by noting that he had also not read independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s report on President Bill Clinton in 1998, before he was a member of Congress.
“I was on the board of directors of the United States of America, as a voter,” he said. “The role I play in Congress, I promise you, is not to try to bring down a sitting president. The role I play in Congress is to try to work with my speaker so I can send a bill to the president’s desk.”
This has not always been the case. Back in December 2017, in a constituent newsletter, Woodall promised to pay close attention to the Mueller investigation, then less than a year old.
“I believe that Americans deserve to know the extent to which Russia may have interfered in our elections, and I do hope you’d agree with me that any and all investigations must remain free of political bias,” he wrote. “My expectation is that most of the findings will be made public, but if any do need to remain classified, I commit to you that I will investigate those, as well.”
At an April 2018 debate, Woodall said he supported “getting to the bottom [of the Russian interference effort] so that folks don’t have any questions at all about who did what to whom and when did they do it.” He claimed that Trump had been “maligned for what folks have shown absolutely no proof of whatsoever.”
While Woodall now claims investigations are bad because they can advance a partisan agenda, he was fully in favor of such investigations during the Obama years when they were driving his own political message.
In 2013 and beyond, he pushed for a full examination of a now-debunked conspiracy theory that the Internal Revenue Service had improperly singled out Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status for more scrutiny than progressive organizations. He backed a resolution to hold the agency’s commissioner in contempt of Congress as “a very important, though very unfortunate issue.”
He boasted of his participation in a 2013 hearing on the Benghazi terror attacks, called “Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage,” and, after months of investigations found little to support his stance, he backed the creation of another “Select Committee” to probe further.
After selectively-edited videos made by anti-abortion activists were released in 2015 to give the false impression that Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal remains, Woodall took a punish-first, investigate later approach. In a newsletter, he backed a moratorium on federal funding for Planned Parenthood to give Congress “plenty of time to conduct a thorough investigation into whether Planned Parenthood violated any federal laws regarding tissue or organ donation.”
And after then-FBI Director James Comey announced at a lengthy July 2016 press conference that he would not recommend charges against then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server to conduct official business, Woodall signed a letter demanding “a more robust explanation for [the] decision.”