National Security

House panel approves subpoena for Mueller report 

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted to authorize a subpoena to compel the Justice Department to hand over special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report to Congress, intensifying a power struggle with the Trump administration.

In a party-line vote, the committee voted 24-17 to approve a resolution authorizing subpoenas for Mueller’s report, including accompanying exhibits and other attachments, as well as its underlying evidence. The resolution also authorizes the committee’s Democratic chairman to subpoena testimony related to the special counsel’s report.

{mosads}House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said he would give Attorney General William Barr time to produce the final, unredacted report to Congress before issuing the subpoena; however he did not provide a timeline on when that would happen.

“I will give him time to change his mind,” Nadler said. “But if we cannot reach an accommodation then we will have no choice but to issue subpoenas for these materials.

“And if the department still refuses, then it should be up to a judge — not the president and not his political appointee — to decide whether the committee can review the complete record,” Nadler said, underscoring Democrats’ intention to go to the courts if necessary to obtain the full report.

In a testy debate before the committee vote, Republicans argued the Democratic actions were unnecessary since Barr had already committed to turning over Mueller’s report to Congress.

They also accused Democrats of engaging in a desperate effort to undermine President Trump after Mueller’s investigation did not find that members of his campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.

“This is reckless. It’s irresponsible. And it’s disingenuous,” Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the committee’s top Republican, said in an opening statement accusing Democrats of engaging in “political theater.”

“What’s the rush? Spring break, probably,” he said. “We don’t want to wait ‘til May. We don’t want to wait until the report comes out.”

Collins and other Republicans argued it was also reckless for Democrats to demand the release of grand jury material and other sensitive information from the report, which Collins said amounted to asking Barr to violate federal law.

The committee also voted along partisan lines to authorize Nadler to issue a subpoena to five former Trump White House and campaign officials as part of a sprawling inquiry into allegations of abuse of power, public corruption and obstruction by the president and his inner circle.

The resolution allows Nadler to send subpoenas at his discretion to former White House aides Reince Priebus, Stephen Bannon and Hope Hicks, as well as ex-White House counsel Donald McGahn and his former deputy, Ann Donaldson.

Nadler has suggested they failed to meet the committee’s demands for documents issued in March. Collins asserted Wednesday that they have cooperated with the probe or signaled willingness to cooperate, and he accused Nadler of targeting them because of their proximity to Trump.

Democrats authorized the subpoena for Mueller’s report after the Justice Department did not meet an April 2 deadline set by six Democratic chairmen for sending it to Congress. So far, Congress has only received a four-page summary of the report from Barr.

The attorney general told lawmakers late last week that officials were on track to prepare a version of the report by mid-April that would be released publicly and sent to Capitol Hill.

In a letter to Nadler and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Friday, Barr wrote that the public version of the report would be scrubbed of sensitive national security information that could compromise sources and methods, grand jury material, information that could impact ongoing investigations and “information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

Unsatisfied with Barr’s commitments, House Democrats have demanded the immediate release of Mueller’s entire report — with no redactions — to Congress. They’ve also demanded Barr testify before Congress as soon as possible to explain his decisions with respect to Mueller’s report. Barr has offered to testify before both the House and Senate panels in early May.

Mueller delivered his confidential closing documentation to Barr, ending his investigation less than two weeks ago. Days later, Barr laid out Mueller’s core findings in a letter to Congress, revealing that the special counsel did not charge members of Trump’s campaign with conspiring with the Russian government.

Mueller also did not come to a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice; however, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined themselves that there was not sufficient evidence to accuse the president of obstructing the probe.

Trump and his Republican allies have seized on Barr’s letter as exonerating the commander in chief.

Meanwhile, Democrats have increasingly raised questions about Barr’s determination and his ability to be a neutral arbiter over the investigation, and have clamored for the release of Mueller’s report.

“This committee has a job to do,” Nadler said at Wednesday’s meeting. “The Constitution charges Congress with holding the president accountable for alleged official misconduct. That job requires us to evaluate the evidence for ourselves — not the attorney general’s summary, not a substantially redacted synopsis, but the full report and the underlying evidence.”

Nadler cited the investigations into former presidents Clinton and Nixon as reasons for Barr to release grand jury material to Congress, noting Congress obtained grand jury information produced during the Ken Starr and Watergate probes.

“This subpoena authorization gives this committee the ability to compel production of the full report and related documents if the attorney general departs from these and other precedents and refuses to produce to Congress the complete record of special counsel Mueller’s investigation,” Nadler said.

{mossecondads}Republicans, however, said Nadler’s demands amounted to asking Barr to violate the law, noting that federal rules prohibit the public release of grand jury material unless there is a court order allowing their release.

“In my opinion, the Democrats are asking Attorney General Barr to violate the law,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.). “It’s obvious to me that this is just a continuation of an attempt to undermine the president of the United States”

“For the last two years, members on this committee have said that there has been collusion with the Trump administration and President Trump with Russia to undermine the 2016 election. And, as revealed in the summary, this is absolutely not true,” Lesko said.

Lawmakers also tussled over past independent counsel investigations, including the Starr probe that eventually unearthed that Clinton was having an affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.

GOP lawmakers joined the president in arguing that Judiciary Democrats like Nadler fought against certain information in the Starr report becoming public, suggesting he is treating the probes differently.

Nadler dismissed these claims, stating that the fight was to keep lewd details of the president’s sexual affairs private, not information that related to national security. Obtaining the full Mueller report, he argues, is a fight for information regarding an attack on the rule of law.

“We need a full accounting of the president’s actions in order for us to do our work,” he argued.

While Trump and Republicans have called for Mueller’s report to be released, the president has dismissed the subpoena effort as a “waste of time” and suggested Democrats were playing “politics at a very low level.”

“So, there’s no collusion. The attorney general now and the deputy attorney general ruled no obstruction. They said no obstruction,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with the head of NATO.

“Now we’re going to start this process all over again?” Trump added. “I think it’s a disgrace. These are just Democrats that want to try and demean this country, and it shouldn’t be allowed.”

He has also said that Nadler and other Democrats will never be satisfied no matter how much information is provided. 

–Updated at 11:58 a.m.

Tags Donald McGahn Donald Trump Doug Collins Hope Hicks House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler Lindsey Graham Mueller report Reince Priebus Robert Mueller Rod Rosenstein Subpoena William Barr

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