Special counsel Robert Mueller’shas been delayed until July 24 under an agreement that gives lawmakers more time to question him. Mueller had been scheduled to testify July 17 before two house committees about the findings of his Russia investigation.
But lawmakers in both parties complained that the short length of the hearings would not allow enough time for all members to ask questions.
Under the new arrangement, Mueller will testify for an extended period of time — three hours instead of two — before the House Judiciary Committee. He will then testify before the House intelligence committee in a separate hearing. The two committees said in a statement that all members of both committees will be able to question him.
The agreement will also give Mueller more time to prepare for the rigorous questioning. The statement said the postponement was “at his request.”
A separate closed-door session with two of Mueller’s deputies is expected to be canceled, for now. An official for the intelligence panel said that they are still negotiating the appearance of the two Mueller team members, James Quarles and Aaron Zebley.
The official, who declined to be named to discuss the confidential negotiations, said that the committee had recently heard almost five hours of testimony from another member of Mueller’s team. The official did not name that person.
A separate person familiar with that testimony said that the person is David Archey, the senior FBI official who was involved in Mueller’s probe. That person also declined to be named because the committee had not announced it.
The closed-door interviews with the deputies had appeared to be in doubt for several days after the Justice Department has recently pushed back on the arrangement.
As the hearing neared, members of both parties had complained about the lack of time for questioning. While every member of the smaller Intelligence panel was expected to be able to question Mueller, fewer than half of Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary panel would have been able to do so in the original two-hour timeframe. At a separate hearing on Thursday, several Republicans complained about the setup.
“I have been elected just like anyone else here,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona, a junior GOP member of the panel.
After the announcement, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, said: “I appreciate news the chairman has taken seriously the concerns Judiciary Republicans raised this week. The new format will allow all Judiciary Republicans to question the special counsel on July 24.”
It’s unclear whether Mueller’s testimony will give Democratic investigations new momentum. In the news conference, Mueller indicated that it was up to Congress to decide what to do with his findings. But Democrats have had little success so far in their attempts to probe his findings as the White House has blocked several witnesses from answering questions.
That means the committees may have to go through a lengthy court process to get more information. Around 80 Democrats have said they think anshould be launched to bolster their efforts, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far rebuffed those calls.