WASHINGTON — Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s testimony before Congress, planned for Wednesday, could be delayed one week amid new discussions to allow more time during the hearing for lawmakers to ask questions.
House leaders had agreed last month to have Mueller testify before two committees for two hours each, relatively short by congressional standards.
Rank-and-file lawmakers of both parties pushed back when it became clear that it would not be enough time to discuss all the open questions surrounding his report or give every member of the House Judiciary Committee a chance to ask questions.
Separately, Mueller wants a delay, too, to allow for more time to prepare his testimony, according to several congressional sources who were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks and asked to remain anonymous. Mueller’s request, the people said, prompted House officials to propose adding more questioning time in exchange for the delay.
No delay has been agreed upon.
“At this moment we still plan to have our hearing on the 17th,” said House Judiciary Committee spokesman Daniel Schwarz.
Mueller is slated to appear before both the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees under threat of subpoena. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said earlier this week that Democratic leaders agreed to the shortened time frame because the alternative was to take their subpoena to court, which could have delayed Mueller’s testimony for months.
While Mueller has made clear that he does not wish to appear before Congress and is only doing so in response to the subpoena, his testimony already promises to be one of the highest profile congressional hearings in recent memory.
For Democrats, the stakes couldn’t be higher. They view Mueller’s hearing as their most substantial chance to move public sentiment on Trump and impeachment. Democrats believe far more Americans will view even a clip of Mueller’s testimony than read his complex, 448-page report summarizing his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“Probably 99.9 percent of American people have not read the report. And maybe the same percentage of congresspeople,” quipped Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
“We simply want to bring the report to life, and if Robert Mueller would simply, on live TV, highlight the important parts of the report, that would be very helpful to the American people,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., who sits on one of two committees that would question Mueller in back-to-back hearings.