Democrats seize on Mueller-Barr friction

Democrats seized Thursday on two explosive stories that members of Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal MORE’s team are frustrated with Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Words matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump Justice OIG completes probe on FBI surveillance of ex-Trump campaign aide MORE’s summary of his findings, intensifying their calls for the special counsel’s full report to be released.

The remarks from Democrats showed they think their hand in demanding the full release of Mueller’s report has been strengthened by the reports.

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“These latest developments … just show additionally why it is imperative that the entire report and the underlying documents be released to the House immediately,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerWords matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump Nadler: Impeachment inquiry a 'made-up term' but it's essentially 'what we are doing' DOJ files brief arguing against House impeachment probe MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters Thursday.

Nadler amplified a promise he made Wednesday to issue a subpoena for the report and its underlying evidence authorized by his panel in “very short order” if the Justice Department does not comply with its demands. 

Hours later, Nadler delivered a letter to Barr, demanding that the attorney general release the public "summaries" that, according to the new media reports, had been prepared by the special counsel — and kept under wraps by the Justice Department. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico This week: House jump-starts effort to prevent shutdown Schumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill MORE (D-Calif.) also used the reports as an opportunity to push for the release of Mueller's closing documentation. 

“There is an easy answer to this: release the Mueller report as soon as possible,” Pelosi said at a news conference Thursday in response to questions about stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

The Justice Department defended Barr’s decision to offer just a four-page summary of Mueller’s findings so far in response to the reports, saying it was necessary to go through the hundreds of pages carefully to do redactions for grand jury material prohibited from release.

“Given the extraordinary public interest in the matter, the Attorney General decided to release the report’s bottom-line findings and his conclusions immediately — without attempting to summarize the report — with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redactions process,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.

The Justice Department also emphasized Barr’s commitment to releasing as much of the report publicly as possible. Barr has said he plans to release a version to Congress and the public by mid-April with redactions for grand jury material, classified information, details impacting ongoing investigations and “information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE and his allies launched attacks on the media and Mueller’s team.

“The New York Times had no legitimate sources, which would be totally illegal, concerning the Mueller Report. In fact, they probably had no sources at all! They are a Fake News paper who have already been forced to apologize for their incorrect and very bad reporting on me!” the president wrote in a tweet.

The Times was quick to come back with a response: “False. Our reporters interviewed multiple government officials and others to gather the facts for the story,” it said in a statement.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, lashed out at Mueller's team, saying on Fox News’s “The Ingraham Angle” that they were “a bunch of sneaky, unethical leakers.”

The Times reported that members of Mueller’s team have said privately that Barr’s distillation of their report conveyed a more rosy picture of the president’s behavior than they had found.

The Washington Post reported that some of Mueller’s investigators have expressed frustration that Barr’s memo did not properly portray the evidence gathered that led Barr to conclude no charge for obstruction of justice should be made against the president. One person complained to the Post that the evidence was “much more acute” than the attorney general suggested.

Distrust with Barr among Democrats runs high, largely because of a 19-page memo he wrote last year while in private practice arguing that Trump could not be charged with obstruction in the firing of former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyHouse Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe Justice OIG completes probe on FBI surveillance of ex-Trump campaign aide Aggrieved Trump rips Dems for 'sad' impeachment effort MORE. Barr wrote that the president has the clear power to choose the members of his own administration.

Democrats have repeatedly pointed to that memo as evidence that Barr is more interested in protecting Trump than serving as a neutral legal referee.

“I mean, it has the unmistakable whiff of a PR operation from top to bottom, which is why we’ve been saying from the very beginning there is no substitute for the report itself, Congress has the power and the right to receive this report,” said Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinThis week: Congress returns for first time since mass shootings Trump probes threaten to overshadow Democrats' agenda House Democrats planning to hold hearings regarding Trump's role in hush-money payments: report MORE (D-Md.).

Nadler has been coy about whether or when he would actually issue a subpoena, which would trigger a court fight with the administration.

“I think the issue with the subpoena is based on giving Barr time to comply,” Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenTrump probes threaten to overshadow Democrats' agenda Ocasio-Cortez renews impeachment call amid probe involving Trump's Scotland property The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in on Hurricane Dorian projection MORE (D-Tenn.) told The Hill. “Barr is not going to comply and we're going to end up going to court.”

Republicans have downplayed the reports that some on Mueller’s team are unhappy with the Barr summary.

“You have 20 agents and almost 40 lawyers. I’d be shocked if they all were of unanimous opinion,” former House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyRising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief Cummings announces expansion of Oversight panel's White House personal email probe, citing stonewalling Pelosi says it's up to GOP to address sexual assault allegation against Trump MORE (R-S.C.) told Fox News Wednesday night.

Gowdy also says he doubts Barr will even produce everything that Democrats are demanding.

“I’ll be surprised if Barr ever produces everything, and they can go to court, but they will lose in court. What you saw today was for public consumption. It is a communications war, it is not a constitutional war,” he said.

While Republicans have said they’re in favor of the report’s release, they have also accused Democrats of using the subpoena threat in an effort undermine the president and his administration after Mueller’s findings left them disappointed.

The drama over the subpoena is likely to build in the next week with the House approaching an 18-day spring recess. If Democrats don’t get the report by then, they are sure to be unhappy.

Pelosi on Thursday voiced confidence.

“And let me just say: the Mueller report will be released. It’s just a question of — to us, it is inevitable; to them, it is inconceivable. We have to shorten the distance between the inevitable and the inconceivable,” she said.

“I think they should release the report. That’s where the evidence is, the information is. Let’s see the report,” she added. “If they don’t have anything to hide, they shouldn’t worry.”