The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to authorize a subpoena for special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The resolution – approved along party lines in a 24-17 vote – okayed subpoenas for documents and testimony related to the full report, as well as subpoenas for White House employees that the committee suspects of having knowledge of alleged obstruction of justice by President Trump.
The subpoenas seek to give Congress access to a version of the special counsel’s report without redactions, as well as underlying evidence gathered by Mueller that led to the report’s creation.
During his opening statement, committee Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) acknowledged that some of the requests may wind up in court.
“And if the department still refuses, then it should be up to a judge—not the President or his political appointee—to decide whether or not it is appropriate for the committee to review the complete record,” Nadler said.
Nadler said at the hearing that after authorization, he would not immediately send the subpoenas themselves, adding that he would give Barr “time to change his mind” about redacting the report before sending it to Congress.
In his opening statement, he invoked Congress’s role in the Watergate investigation. Nadler compared Attorney General Bill Barr’s statements that he intends to redact the Mueller report for “sensitive information” to attempts by the Nixon administration to keep evidence from Watergate out of public view.
Nadler noted that his committee has the same constitutional rights as the Watergate-era committees did, regardless of whether the special counsel regulations had changed in the intervening 45 years.
“We have reason to suspect this administration’s motives,” Nadler said. “The Mueller report probably isn’t the ‘total exoneration’ the President claims it to be.”
Subpoenas will go to the Justice Department, and to former White House counsel Donald McGahn, Trump campaign chairman Steven Bannon, former White House communications director Hope Hicks, former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and former deputy White House counsel Ann Donaldson.
Nadler had given Barr an April 2 deadline to provide Congress with the full Mueller report.
In a letter last week to Congress, Barr said that a redacted version of the report would be released to the public in mid-April.
Barr also wrote in the letter that he will redact grand jury information from the report, as well as material sensitive to national security, harmful information to unindicted third parties, and information relevant to other investigations.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) issued a broadside against Nadler and the process to access the report, saying it “commands the attorney general to do the unthinkable — break the law.”
Nadler reached back to the heady days of Ken Starr and his 445-page report, noting that Congress received both the report and underlying evidence without incident. The debate then, he argued, was over whether Congress would publicly disclose the underlying evidence – a separate issue from the committee’s current attempt to access unredacted versions of the evidence.
“The question now is not public release of information, but release to Congress to do its constitutional duties,” Nadler said.