On Wednesday, Mr. Mueller said he was not interested in taking the witness stand. The report, he said, was “my testimony” and if called, he would not deviate from its contents.
But Democrats believe that Mr. Mueller would have a hard time refusing a subpoena.
“There is value in him just saying out loud and before television cameras that which is already in the report, even if it goes no further,” said Brian Fallon, a Democratic strategist and the executive director of Demand Justice, an advocacy group.
Representative Chellie Pingree, Democrat of Maine, agreed: “I heard someone say if we could just get Mueller to sit in the committee and read the report, eight hours a day, five days a week, it would probably have a much bigger impact on the American public. We’re a visual country. That’s how we accept our news.”
Democrats are also likely to escalate their fight with the White House.
The House could vote as early as the second week of June on contempt of Congress citations to punish Attorney General William P. Barr and the former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II for defying House subpoenas for documents and testimony related to the Mueller report. That would allow Democrats to go to court to try to enforce the subpoenas.
The Judiciary Committee also has outstanding subpoenas demanding public testimony in June from two other witnesses cited by Mr. Mueller: Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director, and Annie Donaldson, Mr. McGahn’s chief of staff. It is likely that they, too, will defy the subpoenas in deference to the White House, courting additional contempt citations.
Democrats have entertained other options short of impeachment, such as summoning former federal prosecutors to hearings to evaluate the strength of the evidence in Mr. Mueller’s report and calling legal experts to debate the definition of impeachable offenses. An aide to Democratic leaders said relevant House committees met over the recess to begin to map out legislation meant to secure elections and constrain Mr. Trump’s “abuses.”
As Democratic presidential candidates become more vocal and more rank-and-file Democrats call for impeachment, Ms. Pelosi runs the risk of looking out of step with her party, but she remains confident in her strategy for now, those close to her say. Unless and until a broader portion of the public supports impeachment, she believes the House is better off plodding down its course of oversight and lawsuits that keep a cloud over Mr. Trump’s head.