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 NadlerAs impeachment goes public, forget 'conventional wisdom' What this 'impeachment' is really about — and it's not the Constitution Trump officials weigh adding more countries to travel ban list: report MORE’s (D-N.Y.) decision to issue a subpoena for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' 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 BarrImpeachment tests Barr-Trump relationship Democratic senators seek documents on Trump's alleged call for Barr press conference The Hill's Morning Report — Bloomberg news shakes up 2020 race 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 TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem 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 GrahamImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Graham on the impeachment inquiry: 'I made my mind up. There's nothing there' Rand Paul says Trump has 'every right' to withhold Ukraine aid over corruption 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.