House Democrats Postpone Mueller Testimony by One Week

WASHINGTON — House Democrats said late Friday that they would postpone until July 24 two hearings with Robert S. Mueller III, which had been scheduled to take place next week, to allow for expanded questioning of the former special counsel.

The reversal, after a day of negotiations with Mr. Mueller’s associates, came as both Democrats and Republicans were deep in preparations for his testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. The back-to-back hearings with the enigmatic former F.B.I. director are expected to be a pivotal moment for the House as it investigates possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by President Trump.

Democrats said they chose to delay at the request of Mr. Mueller, but the new agreement also appeared to be meant to give lawmakers from both parties more time to question the former special counsel in public on his findings.

The sizable Judiciary Committee will now have three hours with Mr. Mueller, up from roughly two, allowing most of the lawmakers on the panel to ask questions. Because the Intelligence Committee is smaller, its hearing was always expected to include time for each member.

“All members — Democrats and Republicans — of both committees will have a meaningful opportunity to question the special counsel in public, and the American people will finally have an opportunity to hear directly from Mr. Mueller about what his investigation uncovered,” Representatives Jerrold Nadler of New York and Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairmen of the judiciary and intelligence panels, said Friday in a statement.

The news was welcomed by members of both parties. After complaining bitterly for much of the week about the earlier time constraints, Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, offered rare words of praise for Mr. Nadler, saying that the arrangement would allow all of his panel’s members to speak. More junior Democrats on the committee had also registered complaints, arguing that it was unfair to leave them out of such a closely watched event.

Still, the new terms publicized Friday evening appeared to have other limitations.

By pushing the hearings back a week, for instance, they will now take place only two days before the House is scheduled to leave Washington for a six-week summer recess. Democrats had initially hoped they would have more time in the capital after the hearings before decamping to their home states to capitalize on any momentum provided by Mr. Mueller’s testimony for their investigations.

And, for now at least, Democrats have agreed to proceed without immediate access to Mr. Mueller’s top deputies that had previously been incorporated into his appearance on Capitol Hill. Both House panels had expected to have a chance to question the deputies, Aaron Zebley and James L. Quarles III, in private after Mr. Mueller’s public testimony.

The Justice Department had objected to such questioning and directed the men not to appear. But the reason for the change was not immediately clear.

An Intelligence Committee official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the continuing negotiations, said the panel was still talking with the Justice Department about access to unspecified members of Mr. Mueller’s “leadership staff” behind closed doors. The committee already heard on Thursday from David Archey, a senior F.B.I. official who worked on Mr. Mueller’s team.

The Judiciary Committee seems to have dropped its request for the time being.

Democrats on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees initially reached a deal with Mr. Mueller late last month for his public testimony on July 17. They had been negotiating for weeks after the release of a redacted version of his 448-page report on Russia’s election interference efforts in 2016 and possible obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump.

[Read the Mueller report.]

Mr. Mueller made his reluctance to testify clear in the aftermath of his report, using his first and only public appearance in May to state that even if summoned, he would not go beyond the contents of his written work. Ultimately, the committees issued subpoenas to force his hand.

The product of 22 months of investigation, the report documents in granular detail Russia’s attempts to spread disinformation and hacked materials that could interfere in the 2016 election. It also catalogs voluminous contacts between Russians and Trump associates, though ultimately Mr. Mueller said he did not find sufficient evidence to charge anyone with conspiring with the Russians.

A separate volume — upon which Democrats have seized — documents Mr. Trump’s attempts to impede investigators studying the Russian contacts, identifying 10 possible instances of obstruction of justice. In the end, though, Mr. Mueller’s team concluded that because Justice Department policy prohibits indicting a sitting president, it could not determine if Mr. Trump’s actions had been criminal, nor could it exonerate him.


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