WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to authorize subpoenas for the full, un-redacted report issued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as access to any and all evidence gathered by Mueller while doing so. The move was in response to the Department of Justice’s inability to meet an April 2 deadline set by House Democrats for the full and public release of Mueller’s report.
The Committee voted to approve the measure, 24-17, with all Democrats voting yes and all Republicans voting no. Republicans balked at the move to issue subpoenas, stating that Attorney General William Barr had already announced that the Department of Justice would release the report to Congress after sensitive and/or classified information had been redacted.
However, Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, announced that he would not issue any subpoenas right away, instead releasing a statement saying that he intends to be patient with AG Barr, who intends to deliver the report to Congress by mid-April. Barr has said that he will not share the report with the White House before it is released to Congress.
But how much information is to be redacted from Mueller’s report is a point of contention between Democrats and Barr; Dems have called for a completely un-redacted report – but Nadler expressed hopes that the situation can be settled without navigating legal channels.
“I will give him time to change his mind, but if we cannot reach an accommodation, then we will have no choice but to issue subpoenas for these materials,” he said. “This committee has a job to do. 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.”
Barr had previously issued a summary of Mueller’s over 300-page report to Congress, noting that the Special Prosecutor had not uncovered any evidence of members of the Trump campaign engaging in collusion with Russia in order to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. In addition, Barr also said that Mueller had not reached a definitive conclusion as to whether or not Trump himself had obstructed justice, leaving the decision in the AG’s hands on whether or not to prosecute; Barr, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, decided that there was not enough evidence to do so.
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Doug Collins (R-GA), a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, criticized the move to issue subpoenas, noting that Barr is indeed cooperating with Congress, and that the actions of Committee Democrats represent significant overreach – as well as wishful thinking – on their part.
“This is confusing since the Attorney General is doing exactly what he said he would be doing, making as much of the report public as possible under federal law and department policy,” he said. “This is hope against hope that we’re going to find something. This committee is better than this. Why are we here doing pre-emptive subpoenas?”
Barr has said that he intends to share as much of the report as he can, but by law he will have no choice but to remove “any material the intelligence community identifies as potentially compromising sensitive sources and methods; material that could affect ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other Department offices; and information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”
Attempting to assuage the worries of House Democrats and members of the public, Barr has stated that President Trump has given him wide latitude in deciding what is and isn’t to be redacted from Mueller’s report.
“Although the President would have the right to assert privilege over certain parts of the report, he has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me,” he said. “And, accordingly, there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for privilege review.”
The Judiciary Committee also voted to approve subpoenas for five former White House aides regarding a number of related issues to corruption and obstruction investigations, including former White House Counsel Don McGahn, McGahn’s former deputy Annie Donaldson, former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, former White House communications director Hope Hicks, and former chief of staff Reince Priebus.
Authorized by Deputy AG Rosenstein on May 17, 2017, the scope of Mueller’s investigation included the allegation that there were links or coordination between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” The Special Counsel’s office concluded its investigation and submitted the final report to Attorney General William Barr on March 22, 2019. Mueller indicted 34 people: seven U.S. nationals, 26 Russian nationals, and one Dutch national—and three Russian organizations. Two additional individuals were charged as a result of referrals to other FBI offices.
President Trump, however, was found innocent of any Russian collusion, and insufficient evidence was found to charge him with any obstruction of the investigation.