WASHINGTON -- On the eve of Robert Mueller's appearance before two House committees, the chairman of one of the panels accused the Justice Department of attempting to "circumscribe" Mueller's testimony.
Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, in a letter to the former special counsel on Tuesday night, attacked the department for telling Mueller in a letter that he shouldn't discuss ongoing cases or uncharged individuals and that some details of his work might be covered by executive privilege.
"The DOJ letter attempts unduly to circumscribe your testimony and represents yet another attempt by the Trump administration to obstruct the authorized oversight activity and legitimate investigations of the committee," Schiff, a California Democrat, wrote in his letter.
The Justice Department letter had been a response to a request by Mueller for the department's guidance on his appearance at the hearings before the Intelligence and Judiciary committees scheduled for Wednesday.
Department policy "precludes any comment on the facts developed and legal conclusions by the Special Counsel's Office with respect to uncharged individuals, other than information contained within the portions of your report that have already been made public," Bradley Weinsheimer, an associate deputy attorney general, wrote to Mueller on Monday.
While Mueller has already indicated publicly that he has no intention of going beyond what's in his 448-page report, the guidance may disappoint Democrats who want him to offer more details about multiple instances where he investigated Trump for possible obstruction of justice.
But House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a CNN interview Tuesday that Mueller was no longer a Justice Department employee and the letter restricting his testimony "asks things that are beyond the power of the agency to ask even if he still worked for them."
"I think it's incredibly arrogant of the department to try to instruct him as to what to say," Nadler said. "It's part of the ongoing cover-up by the administration to keep information away from the American people."
At the hearings on Mueller's investigation into President Donald Trump and the 2016 election, his former chief of staff will sit next to him and act as his counsel, according to a House Judiciary official.
Aaron Zebley served as Mueller's chief of staff when he was FBI director and later followed him into private practice and the Trump probe.