The House Judiciary Committee has voted to authorize a subpoena to force the Justice Department and Atttorney General William Barr to give Congress the full Mueller report, including the underlying evidence which the special counsel used to reach his conclusions, CNN reports.
The vote, which comes after Barr missed the April 2 deadline imposed by the committee, authorizes Rep Jerrold Nadler, committee chairman, to subpoena the unredacted report and sets up a confrontation between Congress and the DOJ.
Nadler said in his opening statement that he hopes the Attorney General will change his mind and produce the entire report but, if not, the committee will have no choice but to issue subpoenas.
After the meeting, Nadler would not give a prospective date for the subpoena to be issued, instead simply saying it would happen “in short order” if the DOJ does not cooperate. He also told reporters that he is not willing to negotiate a middle ground on redactions, saying “The committee must see everything. As was done in every prior instance.” Nadler also said the committee will go to court to obtain permission for Barr to give the committee grand jury materials.
The Attorney General informed Nadler and other members of Congress in a letter that he will publicly release a redacted version of the report by mid-April. He and the special counsel’s office are redacting classified material, secret grand jury testimony, information regarding law enforcement investigations and statements “that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.” The last category is the issue causing concern for Democrats – the broadness of it being the impetus for the committee to demand the unredacted report and all of the underlying evidence, the New York Times reports.
In the committee hearing, Nadler argued, “The department is wrong to try to withhold that information from this committee. Congress is entitled to all of the evidence. This isn’t just my opinion. It is also a matter of law.” He also said, “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.”
The Times reports that Republicans argued the Democrats were not on firm legal footing and are ignoring the regulations preventing the committee from having access to grand jury materials. Representative Doug Collins of Georgia accused Nadler of political theater and said, “In the face of laws and rules he finds inconvenient, the chairman demands our nation’s top law enforcement official break the law instead of supporting him in enforcing it. This is reckless. It’s irresponsible. It’s disingenuous.”
Republican Ken Buck of Colorado said, “As much as Democrats may hate the President, I would hope you love America more. If love trumps hate, we should afford the attorney general time to redact classified information before providing us with a report that can be shared with the public.”
In addition to authorizing a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report, the committee voted, along party lines, to subpoena Don McGahn, Annie Donaldson, Steve Bannon, Hope Hicks, and Reince Priebus, according to the New York Times. The committee believes the five former White House officials have information relevant to an investigation into obstruction of justice and abuse of power that Nadler kicked off by sending letters to 81 individuals associated with the Trump administration last month, CNN reports.
The Democrats believe that, in preparation for their interviews, the five individuals may have received documents that are not protected by executive privilege. Nadler said, “We also believe that these individuals may have turned this information over to their private attorneys. Under applicable federal law, President Trump waived his claims to executive privilege once this information was transmitted to outside counsel.
President Trump is seen as walking back his initial support of the Mueller report being released publicly and, in a series of tweets, has disparaged the Democrats who are pushing for its release, per Politico.
If Barr refuses to comply with the subpoena, the committee’s two options – contempt of congress proceedings or asking the courts to intervene – could take considerable time, according to the Times.