DOJ: Dem subpoena for Mueller report is 'premature and unnecessary'

DOJ: Dem subpoena for Mueller report is 'premature and unnecessary'
© Greg Nash

The Justice Department on Friday said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify House Democrats request briefing on Epstein, Acosta Nadler apologized after repeatedly calling Hope Hicks 'Ms. Lewandowski' at hearing MORE’s (D-N.Y.) decision to issue a subpoena for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s full report is “premature and unnecessary.”

Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement that Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet House poised to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Harris campaign accepts money from partners of law firm she criticized over Epstein case MORE had released Mueller's report with only “minimal redactions,” and that he already made arrangements for Nadler and other lawmakers to review a version with fewer redactions.

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“In light of this, Congressman Nadler’s subpoena is premature and unnecessary,” Kupec said. “The Department will continue to work with Congress to accommodate its legitimate requests consistent with the law and long-recognized executive branch interests.”

Nadler issued a subpoena Friday morning to force the Justice Department to turn over Mueller’s full report, as well as the underlying evidence. He set a May 1 deadline for the department to comply.

Nadler said in a statement that he is “open to working with the Department to reach a reasonable accommodation for access to these materials” but described Barr’s proposal to allow a select group of lawmakers to view the less-redacted version of Mueller’s report as unacceptable.

“My Committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice. The redactions appear to be significant.  We have so far seen none of the actual evidence that the Special Counsel developed to make this case,” Nadler said, adding that it is up to Congress “to determine the full scope of that alleged misconduct” by President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE laid out in Mueller’s sprawling report.

The version of Mueller’s report released by Barr publicly on Thursday restricts sensitive intelligence information, details that could impact ongoing investigations, grand jury material and information that could infringe on the privacy of “peripheral” third parties caught up in the investigation who were not charged with crimes.

In a letter to Nadler and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhy Trump's bigoted tropes won't work in 2020 The Memo: Toxic 2020 is unavoidable conclusion from Trump tweets GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm MORE (R-S.C.) on Thursday afternoon, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said the Justice Department would allow the leaders of their committees as well as the Gang of Eight legislative leaders access to details in Mueller’s report that were redacted from the public version. That includes sensitive national security information and details that could impact ongoing criminal investigations. Boyd said grand jury material, which is subject to federal secrecy rules absent a court order from a judge, would remain restricted.

Boyd said that the Office of Legislative Affairs would operate a secure reading room at the Justice Department next week for those lawmakers to review the report “in camera” and would give lawmakers the chance to review the less-redacted report in the secure spaces on Capitol Hill the following week, when lawmakers return from a two-week recess. They would be prohibited from discussing the information that was not revealed in the public report.

However, top congressional Democrats rejected that proposal Friday afternoon, describing the conditions as unacceptable.

Mueller’s 448-page report details his investigation into Russia's election interference and links between the Trump campaign and Moscow and reveals that the special counsel did not find sufficient evidence to charge members of the campaign with conspiring with the Kremlin. Substantial portions of the section discussing Russian interference are blacked out, particularly to avoid impeding ongoing criminal matters.

The report also discusses Mueller’s investigation into episodes of potential obstruction of justice by Trump, though does not ultimately reach a conclusion one way or another on whether the president obstructed the investigation. The special counsel wrote that he lacked “confidence” to rule definitively that Trump did not criminally obstruct justice, and that his report did not exonerate the president.

Nadler and other Democrats have accused Barr of impropriety in the handling of Mueller’s final report, claiming he provided a rosier picture of Mueller’s findings with respect to the president’s conduct than is detailed in the report. Barr ultimately judged Mueller’s evidence to be insufficient to charge Trump with obstructing justice, which he revealed three weeks before making the report public.

The Justice Department has defended Barr’s handling of the investigation, saying he has acted in the spirit of transparency to release as much from the report as possible – which he is not legally required to do.