Former special counsel Robert Mueller’s highly-anticipated Capitol Hill testimony will likely be delayed one week under a tentative arrangement he reached with House Democrats, according to multiple sources briefed on the discussions.
Although it’s unclear why the House Judiciary Committee is considering delaying Mueller’s testimony until July 24, lawmakers familiar with the matter said one reason was an ongoing negotiation about how much time they would have to question the former special counsel.
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The Judiciary and Intelligence committees have been negotiating to give lawmakers more time to question the former special counsel. Under the tentative agreement, which was described to POLITICO by lawmakers briefed on the talks, the Judiciary Committee would be granted an extra hour to question Mueller.
That concern was particularly acute for the 41-member Judiciary Committee. As initially planned, each committee would have had just two hours to question Mueller, and more junior lawmakers on the Judiciary panel — including all of its freshman members — would have been shut out. It remains unclear whether the Intelligence Committee, too, will be granted an extra hour.
In a sign of the tentative nature of the talks with Mueller, a Judiciary Committee spokesman emphasized that the initial July 17 hearing is still on the books.
“At this moment we still plan to have our hearing on the 17th and we will let you know if that changes,” the spokesman said.
Republicans spent Thursday and Friday slamming Democrats for cutting a deal that did not allow all committee members to question Mueller.
“You’re disenfranchising everyone,” Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee said Friday.
Democrats, too, had raised concerns about being denied the opportunity to question Mueller, and expressed hope that ongoing talks with him would yield an agreement for all of them to grill him for five minutes each.
“Sure, I want to be asking questions; sure, I’ll be disappointed if I don’t have that chance. But I’ll be much more disappointed for the American public if part of that time is cut off,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), a freshman member of the Judiciary panel.
Both committees issued subpoenas last month to Mueller, who was resisting House Democrats’ efforts to get him in front of the cameras to answer questions about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller has said that his congressional testimony would not go beyond his 448-page report.
Democrats who favor impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump have hoped that Mueller speaking directly to Americans about the findings in his report — including evidence that Trump attempted to obstruct his investigation — would reinvigorate their effort.
But a July 24 hearing would put Mueller’s testimony on the calendar just one day before lawmakers are scheduled to depart for a month-long summer recess, leaving little time for impeachment advocates to seize on any momentum before lawmakers scatter to their home districts.
Multiple lawmakers said a separate closed-door session with Mueller’s deputies had been called off.