At the moment, Robert Mueller is still scheduled to make his post-special counsel appearance next Wednesday at the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. That date may slip, or perhaps not happen at all, thanks to a revolt among Judiciary’s rank and file. With a two-hour limit and 41 committee members, junior Democrats fear not getting an opportunity for some serious media coverage:
Junior lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee could get shut out of next week’s highly anticipated hearing with special counsel Robert Mueller — and they’re not happy about it.
The agreement reached between congressional Democrats and Mueller allowed for a limited time agreement where 22 members of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees would question the former special counsel. That’s the exact number of members on the Intelligence panel, but includes just over half of the 41-member Judiciary Committee.
The arrangement has prompted an outcry, with junior committee Democrats publicly and privately grumbling about the arrangement and pushing for the committee to reopen negotiations so Mueller could potentially appear for a longer period. Republicans, meanwhile made their complaints loudly known at a Thursday hearing to vote on subpoenas, repeatedly criticizing House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler for agreeing to limit the length of the hearing in order to get Mueller to testify.
Giving some members the chance to shine — while others will have to sit quietly at the panel’s most-anticipated hearing in years — has created a headache for Nadler, because his members feel they’re being robbed of the chance to press the special counsel in front of millions of people watching the proceedings.
That’s a fair complaint, given that the only purpose of calling Mueller to testify is to grandstand for the cameras. Mueller provided a nearly 500-page report of his findings to William Barr, who released about 92% of it to the public and 98% to Congressional leadership — including to these two committees. Mueller made it explicitly clear at the time that the report was the broadest possible release of information that he could make, and that calling him to testify would be a big waste of time.
Jerrold Nadler and Adam Schiff demanded his presence anyway, forcing them to negotiate terms with a retiree who clearly was resistant to the idea. Mueller finally agreed to show up for both committees, but with a strict time limit of 2.5 hours in each appearance. That’s enough to allow all of Schiff’s committee members to ask their questions in a 5-minute format, but it leaves 19 Judiciary members as spectators, locked out of their Mr. Smith Goes To Washington opportunities for voters back home.
Which, of course, was one source of Mueller’s reluctance in the first place.
It’s not just Democrats complaining, either. Ranking member Doug Collins ripped Nadler for getting “rolled” in negotiations with Mueller:
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the committee’s top Republican, was among the members who described a format that would have Mueller leave to appear before the House Intelligence Committee, a smaller panel where all members are expected to have time to ask questions.
Combined with the five-minute limit for each questioner, that means only about 11 Judiciary Committee members from each party are expected to have a chance ask questions. The committee is comprised of 24 Democratic members and 17 Republican members.
“Next week, a hearing on one of the largest, most talked about investigations in two years, and this committee got rolled,” Collins said. “Intel Committee gets to ask all their questions, this committee does not.”
The arrangement could violate a House rule that states how “each committee shall apply the five-minute rule during the questioning of witnesses in a hearing until such time as each member of the committee who so desires has had an opportunity to question each witness.”
With all of this raining down on his head, Nadler’s hoping to find the pony somewhere. Nadler is going back to the bargaining table with Mueller to delay the testimony and to try to get more time for media grandstanding:
The House Judiciary Committee is discussing delaying public testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller one week until July 24 to allow more time for Mueller to testify, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The agreement to delay the hearings in exchange for extended testimony is not finalized, the sources said, and lawmakers are still negotiating.
Politico reported that Mueller already agreed to the delay, but that’s not quite clear yet. It would serve Nadler right if Mueller told him to pound sand, but Mueller’s a little too much of an institutionalist for him to flat-out refuse to deal with Nadler. Mueller could still insist that he’s not going to stick around for more than 150 minutes no matter how Nadler wants to slice it up, especially since it will be 150 minutes of dull repetition of everything Mueller carefully wrote out for them.
Perhaps in the meantime, Judiciary members could read the report themselves and save everyone the bother.