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House panel to vote on subpoena for Mueller report as Trump backs away from calls for public release

Posted at 9:10 AM, Apr 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-03 09:10:35-04

The House Judiciary Committee will vote Wednesday to authorize a subpoena to obtain the full confidential report from special counsel Robert Mueller, setting the stage for a clash between Congress and President Donald Trump, who has recently walked back his previous calls for the report to be released.

Wednesday’s vote, which is expected to divide along party lines, comes the day after an April 2 deadline House Democrats set for Attorney General William Barr to provide the full Mueller report to Congress. The vote will give Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler the power to issue a subpoena for Mueller’s unredacted report as well as the underlying evidence collected during the 22-month investigation into Trump’s team.

Barr has said he is working with Mueller to release a redacted version of the report, which totals nearly 400 pages, and plans to release it publicly around mid-April. But Democrats have said that a redacted report is not acceptable.

“The big question is, do we get the entire report and the documentation? Or does he redact it so it’s meaningless?” Nadler told on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.

In addition to the Mueller report subpoena, the committee plans to vote to authorize five subpoenas Wednesday for former White House officials — Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Hope Hicks, Donald McGahn and Annie Donaldson — related to obtaining documents in the panel’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice.

The subpoenas set the stage for a potential court fight with the Trump administration if the Justice Department will not provide what Democrats have requested. The committee does not plan to issue the subpoenas Wednesday, but once they are authorized, Nadler can issue them at any time afterward, according to a Democratic committee aide.

Democrats want to show courts they were being reasonable in giving the Justice Department time to respond, the aide said, if the issue ultimately comes down to a court fight.

Nadler said Tuesday he was “not committing” to waiting for Barr to release the report he’s working on before issuing a subpoena, saying it subpoenas would be used “as necessary” and he wanted to see what cooperation the committee gets first from the attorney general.

Trump less enthusiastic about releasing report

Soon after Mueller concluded his report, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office it “wouldn’t bother me at all” if the report was made public. But he has since indicated less enthusiasm for releasing a report he once wrongly claimed “totally exonerated” him, though he continues to maintain that it’s Barr’s decision to release the report.

“There is no amount of testimony or document production that can satisfy Jerry Nadler or Shifty Adam Schiff,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “It is now time to focus exclusively on properly running our great Country!”

And as Democrats have demanded the full Mueller report from Barr, Nadler and Schiff, the House Intelligence chairman, have increasingly become targets of Trump’s attacks on Twitter and in public. Trump on Tuesday accused Nadler of opposing the 1998 release of Ken Starr’s report after the investigation into former President Bill Clinton.

“So Jerry Nadler thought the concept of giving the Starr Report was absolutely something you could never do. But when it comes to the Mueller Report, which is different on our side, that would be something that he should get. It’s hypocrisy and it’s a disgrace,” Trump said Tuesday in an Oval Office meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Nadler responded by saying Trump was wrong because his comments came after Starr’s report had already been released publicly, and when Congress was debating whether to make Starr’s evidence public, too.

Democrats are now pressing the Justice Department to provide the full report and evidence to Congress, Nadler said, and they’ve argued that precedent is on their side with past investigations.

Republicans have criticized Democrats for setting an arbitrary deadline for Barr and seeking information that the law protects from public release.

“Judiciary Democrats have escalated from setting arbitrary deadlines to demanding unredacted material that Congress does not, in truth, require and that the law does not allow to be shared outside the Justice Department,” said the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, Doug Collins of Georgia.