Members Of Congress Prepare For Mueller Hearings
NOEL KING, HOST:
After months of negotiation, former special counsel Robert Mueller is finally scheduled to appear before Congress next week. We're learning more about how those hearings will go on Wednesday before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.
With us now is NPR's congressional reporter, Tim Mak. Hey, Tim.
TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey, there.
KING: So Tim, Robert Mueller has said that his 448-page report would be his testimony. That is the end of the story. Are members of Congress going to agree to that?
MAK: Well, probably not. But it depends on the committee. We got a preview from some of these committee staff about how they're preparing for Mueller. The Judiciary Committee says it will mostly stick to what the special counsel wrote in Volume II. That's about alleged obstruction of justice.
The Intelligence Committee wants to expand beyond the conclusions that Mueller reached in Volume I and what Volume I says about Russian interference in the 2016 election. They really want to ask about the evidence and how Mueller came to his conclusions.
KING: So it was tricky for these committees because everybody wants to ask Robert Mueller a question, right? That was one of the reasons for the delay. Some Congress people said we're not going to have time. Has that problem been solved?
MAK: So you're right that they had to postpone these hearings by a week after complaints by both Democrats and Republicans. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were saying we just don't have enough time to ask meaningful questions. So what we've heard now is that they're going to operate based on regular order. And in the House, what that means is that there'll be five minutes for every member to ask questions, just like any normal hearing. But Mueller's not going to be able to stay all day. He's doing three hours with the Judiciary Committee and two hours with the Intelligence Committee.
The trick for members and their staff is going to be to figure out how to use that time effectively. Aides told us, for example, that they've been watching videos of old hearings at which Mueller appeared before Congress. It's kind of like a coach studying film for an upcoming game. One aide told us that Mueller never uses 10-word answers when a one-word answer will do. And they really expect him to give a lot of simple yes-or-no answers, a lot of lightning round-type questioning.
KING: If that's what they're expecting, why do members of Congress even want to do this hearing with him?
MAK: So as usual, Democrats and Republicans see the world in different ways in kind of why they want to get Mueller before Congress. Many people, including quite a number of members of Congress, haven't actually read the Mueller report; it's well over 400 pages. So the Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler of New York, has said, look; all he basically wants is for people to see and hear Mueller on television saying what he's already written because that will break through for more people.
The Republicans on these committees have spent many months attacking Mueller, saying that the FBI, the Justice Department and the special counsel's office have been biased. They'll be able to press Mueller on questions they know will require him to repeat embarrassing facts about the bureau - for example, about the former special agent Peter Strzok and the former FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
KING: All right. You're the expert here. Do you think we're going to learn anything new from these hearings?
MAK: You never know. But the thing is that Mueller is legendary for being tight-lipped. He's expressed himself. He says I don't want to be on Capitol Hill for these hearings. He didn't speak a word through the entire course of the investigation even though it was the biggest political story in the world. Democrats are trying to tamp down on expectations for a big new revelation. They say they just want to connect the dots.
KING: NPR's Tim Mak. Thanks so much, Tim.
MAK: Thanks a lot.
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