WASHINGTON: The Justice Department is trying to prevent two former members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s team from testifying behind closed doors as Mueller prepares to make a public appearance before lawmakers next week, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The department said last week it opposed testimony by Aaron Zebley and James Quarles before the Democratic-led House of Representatives` Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, a senior congressional official told the paper. A Justice Department official confirmed the account and had instructed the men not to appear, the paper said.
A person familiar with the matter told Reuters the former Mueller team members were in negotiations to testify before the two panels behind closed doors. The person could not confirm that the Justice Department had instructed them not to testify.
Mueller is due to testify in open session before the House of Representatives Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on July 17.
Justice Department representatives were not immediately available for comment on the report. Committee spokesmen did not respond to a request for comment.
Mueller issued a report in April that found Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and that Republican President Donald Trump’s campaign team had had multiple contacts with Russian officials.
But the report found insufficient evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and Moscow. Mueller, in his first public comments since starting the two-year investigation, said on May 29 his probe was never going to end with criminal charges against Trump, and indicated it was up to Congress to decide whether he should be impeached.
“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said. The Judiciary and Intelligence panels led by U.S. Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Adam Schiff are conducting their own investigations into Russian interference and possible obstruction.