Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Donald Trump

Trying to limit any Congressional hearings into Trump-Russia links and Donald Trump’s obstruction of justice, the Justice Department tells members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team not to testify.

Aaron Zebley and James Quarles are scheduled to meet the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees in private next week. But the Justice Department told the committees that it is opposed and instructed both men not to appear.

Democratic legislators believed they had reached an agreement with the Department for the prosecutors to testify, as well as for a public appearance by Mueller before both committees on July 17.

See also TrumpWatch, Day 887: Mueller to Testify Before House Committees

Because Zebley and Quarles have left the Justice Department and are now private citizens, they cannot be prevented formally from testifying. But the Department’s pressure could deter them and give them an excuse to decline the committees’ request.

Zebley was Chief of Staff to Mueller, both during his 12-year tenure as FBI Director and in the Special Counsel’s office. Quarles was central in the investigation into obstruction of justice, and was the lead intermediary with the White House.

Attorney General William Barr, who has tried to bury the 448-page Mueller Report by misrepresenting its findings, said on Monday that Democrats were trying to “create some kind of public spectacle” rather than seeking new information.

Barr said that the Justice Department will support Mr. Mueller if he refuses the subpoena to testify, and that the department will block any attempt by House Democrats to subpoena members of Mueller’s team.

The Mueller Report found “numerous contacts” between Russian officials and Trump’s 2016 campaign and transition, but said that they did not constitute a criminal conspiracy. The Special Counsel and his team concluded that in 8 of 10 cases, there was evidence for Trump’s obstruction or attempted obstruction of justice; however, Mueller did not press charges because the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel said a sitting President cannot be indicted.

Barr, appointed in February, tried to pre-empt the report by insisting that it established “No Collusion” and that there was no substantial evidence of obstruction of justice.

See also EA on Monocle 24 and Radio FM4: Trump’s Obstruction of Justice; Barr’s Contempt of Congress