The agreement between the congressional Democrats and Mueller allowed for a limited-time agreement in which 22 members of the judiciary and intelligence committees of the House would question the former special council. This is the exact number of members of the intelligence panel, but includes just over half of the 41 members of the Judiciary Committee.
Giving some members the chance to shine – while others will have to sit quietly at the committee's most anticipated hearing in years – has created a headache for Nadler, as his members feel like they be deprived of the opportunity to put pressure on the special advocate before millions of people who follow the proceedings,
"It is certainly a problem for only two of us to be able to ask questions," said Karen Bass, a California Democrat representative who would be ready to ask questions to Mueller.
"First and foremost, no hearing is going that way," she added. "I mean, the hearing goes on until everyone has had the opportunity to ask a question." It's the usual practice, that's what it's all about. everyone is used to it, but given the importance of this issue, because people have read the report, they want to go deeper, it would be very, very frustrating. "
Others have echoed these concerns.
"Absolutely," said California representative Ted Lieu, who would be worried if he was not allowed to ask questions.
Several Democrats on the committee – who said they were mostly frustrated by Mueller's refusal to testify – expressed their concerns directly to Nadler, who told them that he would seek to take them into account in his negotiations with him. special advocate team about the format. of the audience.
In the end, congressional sources said the Democratic leaders had to make a decision because talks had been dragging on for months with Mueller, who did not want to testify. The Democrats had a choice: Should they press for unlimited testimony at the risk of Mueller continuing to refuse to appear and potentially challenging a subpoena? Or should they reach an agreement to have him appear earlier and make sure he appears, hoping that they would be able to get what they needed when they were there? a shortened hearing. They chose the last one.
Still, it's a bitter tablet to swallow for many lawmakers if the format does not change.
"I'll be disappointed, but I'm hopeful," said Pennsylvania Representative Madeleine Dean, a first-year Democratic student on the Judiciary Committee. "I think it's part of my duty to be part of this monitoring, and I hope that if I do not receive public questions, I get private questions, but I feel it's my absolute duty to fulfill that role. "
Core Committee Democrats were able to voice their concerns at a closed-door meeting between members on Wednesday. This was a topic of debate inside the room, but Nadler suggested that the main members of the committee be those who would be likely to ask questions. However, he said that they were still trying to find a way for other members to participate in the action, according to several sources.
Several Democratic members who are not supposed to have questions in private have raised objections to the format, saying that they argued that all members should be able to ask questions, since they are all elected and They all have a different constituency to represent.
"I reminded the committee that we had zero hours about two hours ago, let's take the time, use it wisely," said Florida representative Val Demings, one of three members of the judiciary and intelligence services. "I think if every member wants to ask a question, he should be given this time, but we just have to be very strategic, very precise."
One of the options available to members who might be excluded is to ask questions during the in-camera session to follow the public hearing with Mueller. But the special council is not supposed to attend this session: two of Mueller's deputy ministers would answer questions if they were finally to appear.
"I expect that, in one way or another, everyone will participate in the hearing," said Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a member of the Judiciary Committee of the United States. Bedroom. "In open session or in camera."
Mueller's agreement to testify for a limited period before the creation of the two committees was formed last month, when the former special council agreed to appear if it received a subpoena. It had been agreed that he would appear before both the Judiciary and the Intelligence Committees for an equal period of time and that both commissions would have an opportunity to question Mueller's MPs.
However, legislators from both parties argued that the agreement violated the rules of the House, which stipulate that congressional hearings grant each member of a committee five minutes to question witnesses.
"You have the five-minute rule of the House – it means all MPs," Lieu said. "You can not ignore this rule."
At a separate meeting of the committee on Thursday to vote on the authorization of a dozen subpoenas related to the investigation of the committee on obstruction of justice , Republicans inquired about Nadler and the agreement reached.
"Next week, an audition as part of one of the largest and most discussed investigations of the last two years, and the committee was renewed," said Georgia's Representative, Doug Collins, the more Republican of the group. "The Intel committee has to ask all its questions, but not the committee."
Collins told reporters after the vote that he had heard dissatisfied Democrats.
"I hear democrats who are unhappy – they do not like it," Collins said. "They came to see me and said that it was not fair, not right."
Other Republicans complained of not being able to ask questions and asked Nadler to explain his agreement with Mueller or to consider other formats for the hearing. Nadler tried to avoid engaging with Republican lawmakers, but said he would "hold reasonable talks".
"The issue of hearing procedure that we are going to hold is an important one, but it's not the purpose of this markup," Nadler said. "Although I have allowed people to talk about it and that they can continue, I will not add to the diversion of attention of the two crucial topics we have here."
The House's intelligence committee, which has had many partisan fights over the topics discussed in the Mueller report, is preparing for a more calm session for next week's hearing.
On Thursday, the committee interviewed in camera David Archey, a senior FBI official in the Mueller team, told CNN three sources close to the case.
The meeting was separated from the audience next week, sources said. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California has asked the FBI to provide his committee with a briefing on the FBI's counter-espionage investigations into Trump and Russia. Last month, he threatened to summon FBI director Chris Wray if the FBI did not tell his committee if counterintelligence investigations were still ongoing.
The Senate Intelligence Committee should also receive an Archey briefing, according to a source familiar with the matter.
A spokesman for Schiff declined to comment.