Mueller Shuns Public Hearing as Talks Stall With House Democrats

Billy House and Chris Strohm
Mueller Shuns Public Hearing as Talks Stall With House Democrats

(Bloomberg) -- Robert Mueller is balking at testifying publicly before Congress, pushing for a closed-door appearance in negotiations with House Democrats, according to three people familiar with the special counsel’s position.

Mueller has told the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee that he doesn’t want to be dragged into a political fight and that he’s hesitant to publicly discuss his final report, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing the continuing negotiations.

Among the options Mueller has raised is making a public statement before the committee questions him in private, the people said.

Democrats are eager to hear from Mueller in public because his report chronicles examples of actions taken by President Donald Trump that hundreds of former federal prosecutors have said constitute obstruction of justice. Mueller also has written Attorney General William Barr to complain that he offered public summaries of the report’s findings that “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of his team’s work.

To date, House Democrats haven’t been able to get any current government officials to publicly testify about Mueller’s findings, and the White House asserted executive privilege to fight a subpoena for the unredacted report and the underlying evidence.

But the Justice Department has said that the assertion of executive privilege doesn’t prevent Mueller from testifying. While Trump has offered differing opinions on whether Mueller should testify, Barr has said he had no objections.

Some details of snags in Mueller’s talks with House Democrats were reported earlier Tuesday by CNN and the Washington Post.

Document Demand

In a related dispute, the Justice Department informed House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff that it’s working to provide his panel documents related to the counterintelligence aspects of Mueller’s investigation.

The department is in active talks with Schiff in order to head off potential retaliatory action when his panel meets on Wednesday.

The department sent Schiff a letter on Tuesday saying it is in the process of identifying, locating and reviewing materials potentially responsive to the categories of documents that Schiff is seeking.

The letter made clear that the process will cease if the committee moves on Wednesday to hold Barr in contempt.

“To be clear, should the committee take the precipitous and unnecessary action of recommending a contempt finding or other enforcement action against the attorney general, then the department will not likely be able to continue to work with the committee to accommodate its interests in these materials,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote to Schiff.

(Updates with House Intelligence document demand in final section.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net;Chris Strohm in Washington at cstrohm1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, Larry Liebert

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.