Mueller’s House testimony likely off until at least June
House Democrats are backing away from plans to hold a blockbuster hearing this month with Robert Mueller after talks stalled out with the special counsel and his representatives.
Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and a senior Democratic committee aide told POLITICO on Friday that there’s no Mueller hearing planned for next week, though that could also change at a moment’s notice if the special counsel said he’s ready to testify.
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“I would assume not,” Nadler replied when asked whether Mueller would be appearing before the upcoming Memorial Day recess, which starts next Friday.
A Judiciary staffer later added, “Mueller could always call us and say, ‘The heck with it, I want to come in Wednesday,’ and we would make time. But at the moment, no Mueller planned for next week.”
Nadler had set a tentative May 23 deadline for Mueller to publicly testify in a letter last month after the release of a redacted version of the special counsel’s 448-page report.
But the prospect of a Mueller hearing before Nadler’s Judiciary panel, or a separate hearing with the House Intelligence Committee, has been stuck in limbo ever since a broader fight between Democrats and the Trump administration over access to documents and testimony tied to the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
President Donald Trump earlier this month wrote on Twitter that Mueller “should not testify” and his administration has invoked or threatened to invoke executive privilege on a range of outstanding congressional requests, including for access to a full unredacted version of the special counsel’s report and its underlying evidence.
In an interview Thursday with The Wall Street Journal, Attorney General William Barr said it’s up to Mueller to decide whether to appear before lawmakers. “It’s Bob’s call whether he wants to testify,” said Barr, who Nadler’s Judiciary Committee earlier this month voted to hold in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over a copy of the full Mueller report.
So far, Democrats and Mueller have yet to reach an agreement on the details or timing for a hearing with the special counsel. Peter Carr, a Mueller spokesman, declined comment when asked Friday about the special counsel making a public appearance before lawmakers.
Mueller remains a government employee and still has a small staff assisting him with closing down his office, Carr has confirmed. But Carr also had no further explanation for the discrepancy from an earlier comment he gave reporters in mid-March, upon the announcement that the Russia probe was over, that Mueller planned in the “coming days” to leave the Justice Department.
Congressional hearings with Mueller are expected to cover a wide range of topics, from his conclusion that he found no evidence that anyone from the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election to his decision to not charge the president with obstruction of justice.
Republicans eyeing a Mueller hearing see it as a chance to press the special counsel on the underlying motivations for the investigation and his reliance on FBI agents who shared anti-Trump text messages. Democrats, meantime, have signaled interest in pressing Mueller to see whether there’s any additional daylight between him and Barr, whom the special counsel criticized in writing for failing to “fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the Russia investigation during its public rollout.
Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.