Justice officials tell Mueller not to stray from his report
Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, July 23, 2019 3:23AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 23, 2019 10:26AM EDT
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Justice Department told former special counsel Robert Mueller not to stray beyond his report on Russian election interference when he testifies to Congress on Wednesday.
In a letter sent Monday to Mueller, Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer said he should not speak about redacted material from his report -- including material pertaining to pending criminal prosecutions, "uncharged third-parties" and "executive privilege," such as "presidential communications privileges."
The letter is entirely in line with what Mueller has already said -- that he doesn't intend to speak beyond his report's findings during Wednesday's hearings before the House Judiciary and intelligence committees. But it gives Mueller a formal directive to point to if he faces questions he does not want to answer.
"The report is my testimony," Mueller said in a televised statement in May. "I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress."
Still, Democrats are preparing questions to highlight the report's most damning details. Judiciary panel Democrats planned to practice with a mock hearing behind closed doors Tuesday, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to publicly discuss the planning.
Attorney General William Barr has said congressional Democrats were trying to create a "public spectacle" by subpoenaing Mueller to testify and has offered to give Mueller an out, saying earlier this month that he and the Justice Department would support Mueller if he decided he didn't want to "subject himself" to the congressional appearances. Barr has also said he'd block any attempts to force members of Mueller's team to testify before Congress.
While Mueller's 448-page report did not find sufficient evidence to establish charges of criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to swing the election, it said Trump could not be cleared of trying to obstruct the investigation.
The nation has heard the special counsel speak only once -- for nine minutes in May -- since his appointment in May 2017.
Mueller's testimony will include an opening statement on Wednesday, but his spokesman said it would be similar in substance to his statement from late May at the Justice Department's podium.
The Justice Department's letter to Mueller was in response to a request from Mueller for information about limitations or potential privilege issues. Mueller's spokesman did not immediately provide a copy of the letter the former special counsel had sent to the Justice Department earlier this month.
Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report