By delaying House hearings featuring former special counsel Robert Mueller by one week, Democrats may have turned a potential public relations bonanza into a bust.
House Democrats moved Mr. Mueller’s appearance before two committees from July 17 to July 24, two days before Congress goes into its six-week summer recess, leaving the Democrats with no time to build on momentum.
Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, said Sunday that the hearings likely will fall flat given the recess schedule and Mr. Mueller’s stated intent to stick to the contents of the 448-page report, which found no collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
“Democrats, they can’t seem to put this hearing together,” Mr. Chaffetz said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s been a couple of months now since the report initially came out. That should be their first clue that, hey, this thing is not going well.”
Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, called it “a wonderful opportunity for Congress to humiliate itself.”
Former Rep. Jane Harman, California Democrat, disagreed. “I think Congress could have a really good day on the 24th,” she said.
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, New Mexico Democrat and assistant House speaker, encouraged Americans to read the report and “tune in.” He said the issue of Russian election interference represents only one of the Democratic investigations into President Trump.
“There are many areas that have to be looked into,” Mr. Lujan said on “Fox News Sunday.” “This is one area, and two days of important tuning-in by the American people into the questioning that will be taking place.”
In addition to the delay, Democrats extended to three hours the amount of time for Mr. Mueller to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, which will be followed by an appearance before the House intelligence committee.
“At his request, we have agreed to postpone the hearing for one week, until July 24, at which time Mr. Mueller will appear in public before the House Judiciary Committee followed by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and chairman of the intelligence committee, said in a Friday statement.
“All members — Democrats and Republicans — of both committees will have a meaningful opportunity to question the Special Counsel in public, and the American people will finally have an opportunity to hear directly from Mr. Mueller about what his investigation uncovered,” they said.
A Democratic staffer told The Washington Times that the problem arose after some members expressed concern that they wouldn’t have time to question the special counsel because of time constraints.
“Whenever the hearing takes place, it’s important that every single member of the House Democratic Caucus who serves on the Judiciary Committee participates in the Mueller hearing,” Rep. Hakeem S. Jeffries of New York, chairman of the Democratic Caucus, told reporters Friday.
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary panel, said he appreciated Mr. Nadler for taking Republican concerns seriously.
Mr. Trump told reporters Friday that House Democrats are trying to hurt him politically with Mr. Mueller’s testimony because they are afraid the Democratic presidential candidates are too weak to beat him on the merits in 2020.
“They want to hurt the president for the election, because I see what I’m running against,” Mr. Trump said before the hearing was rescheduled. “You got sleepy Joe Biden — he doesn’t have the energy to be president. And the people that are nipping on his heels — they don’t have what it takes.”
He said Mr. Mueller has made clear his conclusions and added, “You can only get so many bites at the apple.”
“We got to get on to running a country,” Mr. Trump said. “You got immigration, infrastructure, drug prices. The Democrats aren’t working. All they’re doing is trying to hurt people.”
• Dave Boyer and Valerie Richardson contributed to this report.
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