(Bloomberg) -- Simmering political tensions over next Wednesday’s high-stakes testimony by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller have only escalated with the realization that little more than half the 41 members on the House Judiciary Committee will get to question the star witness on live TV.
With two hours allotted for testimony by the reluctant witness, each party will get an hour for questioning under a schedule released Thursday. Democratic Chairman Jerrold Nadler anticipates 22 members will get five minutes each to pose questions starting at 9 a.m.
“This committee got rolled,” said Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the Judiciary panel’s top Republican. “Our members need to be able to talk to Robert Mueller, if he actually is going to come.”
He pointed out that’s less of an issue for the House Intelligence Committee, which will also get two hours to question Mueller but has only 21 members. Its session is scheduled for noon on Wednesday.
Mueller has made clear he has no intention of saying anything beyond the 448-page report he filed in April. In the report, he said he and his team didn’t conclude that those around Trump conspired in Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign but that he couldn’t exonerate Trump on allegations he sought to obstruct the Russia probe.
Democrats on the Judiciary panel plan to divide questioning into four broad topics, with specific members assigned to particular questions. Democrats are hoping that what Mueller has to say will jump-start their stalled investigations. Some are hoping it invigorates calls for the House to open an impeachment inquiry against Trump despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s resistance to doing so.
Republicans -- who have said they want to press Mueller on their contention that the Russia probe was tainted early on by anti-Trump bias in the Justice Department and the FBI-- have yet to decide on their strategy including whether to treat Mueller as a friendly witness or an adversarial one.
Both parties will continue to hold closed-door strategy sessions on their side’s questioning of Mueller into next week.
Nadler wouldn’t talk about the format. But some Judiciary Committee Democrats acknowledged some disappointment over the set-up. “I know there are some members who have concerns about it,” said Representative Karen Bass of California. “And I am going to to follow up.”
But other Democrats indicated they were satisfied by the format. Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia accused Republicans of playing “psychological games” by sowing discord over the format.
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