Democrats, GOP poised to pounce on Mueller findings

Greg Nash

Democrats and Republicans are preparing their arguments and talking points ahead of Thursday’s release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report — before the contents of the roughly 400-page report are even known.

Democrats are poised to go after Attorney General William Barr over expected redactions, suggesting they will subpoena the Justice Department if they think too much information is left out of the document.

{mosads}President Trump and his conservative allies on Capitol Hill are expected to point back to the core conclusions of Mueller’s report — as described by Barr — to argue Trump has been exonerated and that the investigation should no longer be an issue.

The president has repeatedly attacked the Mueller probe in recent days, tweeting Tuesday that the investigation was “the greatest scam in political history.” And, over the weekend, Trump called again for the investigators to be investigated.

“I heard [the report’s] going to come out on Thursday. That’s good,” Trump told Minneapolis TV station KSTR on Monday. “And there can’t be anything there because there was no crime. There was no anything. It was all a fabrication.”

The president’s team is also crafting its counterattack on the report. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani told Politico on Tuesday that the president’s legal team is preparing a roughly 35-page “counterreport,” meant to be released at the same time as Mueller’s findings.

But with Trump’s attorneys not knowing what exactly will be in the Mueller report, it’s unlikely to rebuff each of the matters raised by the special counsel.

All the while, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and other Democrats on his panel are threatening that anything short of the full, unredacted report coming to Congress is simply unacceptable.

{mossecondads}“To deny the Judiciary Committee and the Congress the knowledge of what’s in parts of the Mueller report is not proper,” Nadler said during a Sunday appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The committee voted along party lines earlier this month to authorize a subpoena to obtain the entire report and all of the underlying evidence collected by Mueller, vowing to battle the Department of Justice (DOJ) for all the information Democrats say is key to conducting their oversight probes into Trump’s administration, businesses and campaign.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), another member of the Judiciary panel, tweeted Monday that there “is very little that needs to be redacted” from the report, because members of Congress can view classified material.

“Barr should provide Congress with the FULL #MuellerReport,” he wrote. “House Judiciary has subpoenas ready if necessary.”

Nadler also argued Sunday that the Judiciary Committee should be allowed to make the redactions from the report before it’s made public, a scenario that Barr has essentially promised won’t play out.

Barr, in several appearances before Congress, vowed to adhere to Justice Department guidelines in the release of the report, which includes restricting access to certain information, such as grand jury materials.

But Democrats, including Nadler, have said they can’t trust the attorney general to only redact the necessary information. And some claim that Barr showed his hand in favor of Trump when the attorney general said during congressional testimony last week that he believed there was “spying” on the Trump campaign.

That word choice was met with praise from Republicans and fierce consternation by Democrats, who said it undermined Barr’s credibility because it aligned with allegations by Trump and his conservative allies of an anti-Trump bias at the FBI and DOJ.

Barr later said he only suspected improper surveillance of the campaign and that he wants to examine those claims.

Democratic strategist Basil Smikle told The Hill that he believes Democrats are “behaving exactly as they should be” in calling for the full report’s release, considering the voters from both parties have expressed widespread interest in seeing the entirety of Mueller’s findings.

He added the report could fuel Democrats’ arguments about Trump’s fitness to serve, offering a helping hand to any impeachment proceedings or opposition to future Trump appointees down the line.

Democrats have said that even if special counsel Robert Mueller didn’t find that Trump colluded and didn’t make a conclusion on obstruction of justice — as Barr has stated  — the report could still include evidence of wrongdoing by the president and his campaign.

“I think Democrats can rightly assume that the Mueller report actually goes further than the summary that Barr provided,” Smikle said. “Assuming that’s the case, Democrats are ready to go further in developing the narrative about the president, but also the narrative about this president’s appointing of individuals who are not at all objective but are simply in the position they’re in to be supportive of the president.”

Congress won’t be able to immediately take action on the report, as they’re in recess until the end of the month. But Republicans are already looking to dampen the arrival of the widely anticipated report.

GOP lawmakers say the Mueller report will offer few details beyond what was offered up in Barr’s four-page summary of the special counsel’s conclusions.

They say it’s time to focus on other congressional priorities, while at the same time dubbing Democrats as “radical” leftist crusaders seeking to tear down the Trump presidency any way they can.

“Thursday’s Mueller report should end the collusion delusion, once and for all,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) tweeted Monday. “But we already know Democrats will do what they’ve done for 2 years: spin anything possible to try and prop up a conspiracy that doesn’t exist. We know the bottom line. No collusion. It’s over.”

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said Republicans believe they can leverage the Mueller report to their advantage in 2020 by using Democratic calls for transparency to fuel their efforts to investigate the individuals who launched the counterintelligence probe into Russia’s election interference.

“You are in a messaging battle where the Democrats are trying to look for anything to hold onto this line of questioning and attacks on the president, but it seems to be their hand is getting weaker and weaker by the day,” O’Connell said. “It is quite clear the Democrats are going to scream bloody murder no matter what, and the White House knows this. It almost doesn’t matter what is in the report. The White House knows which way the Democrats are going to go.”

He added, “But what the White House is going to tell you over and over is exactly what the conclusions were, the fact that Bob Mueller never got fired, [and that] Bob Mueller and the DOJ got all the money they needed for this investigation.”

Democrats, however, point to these early GOP public claims of exoneration as a strategy by Republicans to shape the narrative before the Mueller report is released. By claiming for weeks that the president is not guilty, they are effectively building the case in the court of public opinion that Trump has committed no wrongdoing — an impression Democrats worry may stick even if the Mueller report shows otherwise.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders are eager to see the final report in its entirety but are downplaying the importance of the investigation ahead of the release. They’re quick to emphasize that they won back the House in 2018 on kitchen table issues — including health care, jobs and cleaner government — that had nothing to do with Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“We are focused … as a party, on that on which we campaigned. Wages and jobs [and] health care costs,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday during the Democrats’ annual retreat in the Washington suburbs.

He added that Democrats believe that Russia’s election interference — the subject of Mueller’s probe — is a “substantive danger to our democracy.”

“But it is somewhat, for most people, not the issue that they wake up every morning thinking about,” Hoyer said.

There is at least one topic that’s getting bipartisan support — both sides have indicated an interest in hearing from Mueller after Barr testifies.

Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, called on Nadler earlier this month to seek Mueller’s testimony, claiming in a letter that this is the best path to obtaining transparency, rather than pursuing Barr.

Nadler, in response, tweeted that he “fully” agrees with Collins, while noting that Mueller should come before the committee to testify publicly, but only after the panel receives the full report and testimony from Barr.

Barr is already set to appear before both the Senate and House Judiciary committees at the start of next month. There is no word yet as to whether Mueller will join him.

Mike Lillis contributed.

Tags bob mueller Democrats Donald Trump Doug Collins Jerrold Nadler Mark Meadows Mueller investigation Mueller report Republicans Robert Mueller Rudy Giuliani Russia Investigation Steny Hoyer Steve Cohen William Barr
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