WASHINGTON – House Democrats, concerned that President Donald Trump’s attorney general may withhold evidence of wrongdoing uncovered by special counsel Robert Mueller, are preparing for potential battle over access to the full contents of Mueller’s newly completed report, vowing to pursue it and any underlying investigative materials in court if necessary.
“We will fight” for the full report, said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, emphasizing that Democrats expect complete transparency from Mueller and the Justice Department, save for redactions of classified information that could jeopardize sensitive law enforcement methods if disclosed publicly.
Attorney General William Barr informed the heads of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in a letter Friday that he might be able to advise them of Mueller’s “principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.” He noted also that neither Barr nor his predecessors had challenged any actions Mueller took during his probe.
But with limited power to compel information from potential witnesses, congressional Democrats are looking to Mueller’s findings to inform their investigations of Trump’s campaign, businesses and alleged foreign ties — and insist they will be satisfied with nothing short of a complete account of the results and the evidence that informed them.
“The Special Counsel’s investigation focused on questions that go to the integrity of our democracy itself: whether foreign powers corruptly interfered in our elections, and whether unlawful means were used to hinder that investigation,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement after Barr announced Mueller had completed his report. “The American people have a right to the truth. The watchword is transparency.”
Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, also called for the report’s release.
“The Mueller report should be released to the public,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “This decision is not about politics but about protecting our democracy. Now is the time to do the right thing. The American people deserve the truth.”
The stakes are high: If the special counsel found evidence that Trump committed a crime, participated in a coverup, or otherwise engaged in conduct undermining public trust, it could fuel calls for impeachment, which Democratic leaders have resisted absent proof of wrongdoing.
According to the Justice Department, Mueller has not recommended any further indictments — news that Trump’s defenders in the GOP took as vindication. “The reports that there will be no new indictments confirm what we’ve known all along: there was never any collusion with Russia,” Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House’s second-ranking Republican, said in a statement.
Trump’s disdain for Mueller’s probe, which he has labeled a “witch hunt,” and his animus toward congressional oversight, which he considers “presidential harassment,” have fed Democrats’ suspicion that he might have something to hide and might attempt to force Barr to conceal any unsavory details from public view.
As a result, Pelosi and Schumer warned Friday it was “imperative” Barr publicize Mueller’s findings no later than the president was made aware of the report’s contents. “Attorney General Barr must not give President Trump, his lawyers or his staff any ‘sneak preview’ of Special Counsel Mueller’s findings or evidence,” they said. “The White House must not be allowed to interfere in decisions about what parts of those findings or evidence are made public.”
Republicans say the full report should be released. But they have stopped short of echoing the Democrats’ concerns, expressing faith that Barr will be as transparent as possible — indicating they will defer to Barr, not fight him.
“We’re jumping about 60 steps too far,” said the Judiciary Committee’s ranking minority-party member, Rep. Douglas Collins, R-Ga., when asked about Democrats’ plans. “At this point in time I’m not going to question my attorney general’s veracity or the fact that he’s going to do what he says he’s going to do. Until he proves me wrong.”