Democratic Chairman Of House Judiciary Committee Subpoenas Full Mueller Report

Apr 19, 2019
Originally published on April 19, 2019 6:20 pm
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Special counsel Robert Mueller's report has been on the street for more than 24 hours now. The president, who isn't facing charges, has declared victory. Democrats, on the other hand, say the president was explicitly not exonerated. So while the investigation may be over, the fight over it sure isn't. NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas joins us now to break it all down. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: All right, so the dust is obviously still settling around this report. Can you just explain what is happening now?

LUCAS: Well, a big move actually happened this morning, and it's one that comes as no surprise. The Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, subpoenaed the Justice Department for a full version of Mueller's report. So what Mueller wants is the report without any of the blacked-out sections that we saw in the version that the public got yesterday. Nadler also wants access to all of the underlying evidence that Mueller's team collected during the investigation. And Nadler and other senior Democrats in the House say that evidence is necessary to get a full view of everything that Mueller found out in order to understand what exactly transpired and then decide how lawmakers want to proceed.

But like with many things in Washington, there is a different view from the Republican side of the aisle. Nadler's Republican counterpart, Doug Collins, criticized Nadler's move on the subpoena. He called it overly broad and says that it puts demands on the Justice Department to hand over documents that it frankly should not be sharing.

CHANG: But is the Justice Department likely to give the Democrats what they want? Will it really hand over a totally unredacted version of the report and all of the underlying evidence? How feasible is that?

LUCAS: Well, Democrats have been making this demand for weeks. They pushed Attorney General Bill Barr on this when he was up on the Hill last week. Barr signaled some openness to the idea. And then yesterday, the department told Congress it would make a less redacted version available to a small, select group of congressional leaders, both Republicans and Democrats. That includes the leaders of the judiciary committees. There were four categories of materials that were blacked out of the public version of the report.

In the version that the Justice Department is offering to show congressional leaders, only one category - grand jury material - would still be blacked out. Under law, that material is protected. Barr said he won't give it up. The department put out a statement today calling Nadler's subpoena premature, says it's unnecessary. But the department said they will continue to work with Congress to try to find a solution.

CHANG: But again, that's not what Democrats are asking for. I mean, do you think they'll be satisfied with what the attorney general says he's going to be handing over at this point?

LUCAS: Well, we actually just got an answer to that. Senior Democrats in the House and Senate put out a statement this afternoon calling the Justice Department's proposal unacceptable. They say they're open to a reasonable solution, but it's unclear what that might be. What this means is that this could all turn into a very ugly, very drawn-out fight for the full report and underlying evidence.

Congressional subpoenas are not racecars of the legal world. These things can take a long, long time to play out in the courts. A lot of legal experts say that one way Democrats could probably win a court fight for the full report would be to open impeachment proceedings. That's a decision that lays in the hands of the House Judiciary Committee and its chairman, Jerry Nadler. But he has said again and again, including today, that he has no plans right now to do that.

At this point, the subpoena has been sent. The process has kicked off. Barr is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1 and the House side a day later. Democrats have already requests that Mueller come up to testify in public. Barr said yesterday that he does not object to Mueller personally testifying.

CHANG: Let's just take a step back. Mueller's investigation is done. The report is out. The president was not charged. But is the legal peril over for the president and all of his associates?

LUCAS: Well, the short answer to that question is no. And here's why. The House Democrats have opened up several investigations into Trump, his business practices and his administration and decisions that they've made. On top of that, at the very back of the Mueller report are three pages that contains a list of 14 investigations that Mueller's team referred to other law enforcement bodies to pursue. Twelve of those are blacked out. And these investigations, remember, are ongoing.

CHANG: Right. That's NPR's Ryan Lucas. Thanks, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.