The Justice Department argues that anything outside the report is covered by ‘presidential privilege’ that hasn’t been waived.
Justice Department officials have communicated to Robert Mueller that the department expects him to limit his congressional testimony this week to the public findings of his 448-page report, according to one current and one former U.S. official familiar with the preparations.
In extensive discussions since the former special counsel was subpoenaed to testify on June 25, department officials have emphasized that they consider any evidence he gathered throughout the course of his investigation to be “presumptively privileged” and shielded from public disclosure.
The Justice Department is “taking the position that anything outside the written pages of the report are things about which presidential privilege hasn’t been waived,” the former U.S. official said.
The White House and the Justice Department, meanwhile, have signaled they don’t intend to place lawyers in the room during Mueller’s highly-anticipated testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees on Wednesday.
Without a presence at the hearing, administration officials would have little recourse to prevent Mueller from going off-script and revealing details of his investigation that the White House considers off-limits. They are poised instead to rely on Mueller to self-police his remarks, indicating that they are confident the former special counsel will stick to carefully planned comments that mirror the public results of his investigation.
Their stance cuts against President Donald Trump’s own protestation that Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to testify, which he reiterated on Monday. “Highly conflicted Robert Mueller should not be given another bite at the apple,” Trump said in a Monday morning tweet.
The president has accused Democrats of trying to conduct a “do-over” of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — a probe that he has falsely claimed “exonerates” him.
Mueller’s posture will likely deprive Democrats of an opportunity to get a clear answer from Mueller about whether he would have charged Trump with obstruction of justice if he were not the president — a reference to Mueller’s adherence to a Justice Department policy prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president — and other burning questions.
But some Democrats have said that even if Mueller simply reads from his report word-for-word, it would help educate the American public about Trump’s attempts to thwart the Russia probe.
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