Democrats give Justice Department deadline to turn over Mueller report
lucky-photographer/iStock(WASHINGTON) — House Democrats on Monday demanded that the Justice Department turn over the full report from special counsel Robert Mueller to Congress by next Tuesday, while also requesting Attorney General William Barr’s appearance before lawmakers.
The move to escalate the fight over Mueller’s findings could be followed with subpoenas, signaling Democrats plans to continue investigations even as President Trump and Republicans have declared victory after Mueller found that the Trump campaign did not conspire with the Kremlin in the 2016 election, according to Barr’s summary of Mueller’s findings sent to Capitol Hill Sunday.
“There are a lot of open questions,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Monday. “These questions have not been answered by the summary we got from Bill Barr. I would hope that there are answers in the Mueller report. Now those answers, I imagine, don’t amount to proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a crime. But they are concerning nonetheless, particularly as they shed light on whether there is any form of compromise on these individuals.”
Their continued focus on the investigations could hurt Democrats politically, following the end of the Mueller investigation, as Republicans continue to accuse them of overreach.
“They need to get over it but they won’t get over it,” House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told ABC News. “They’re still going to keep harassing the president.”
Democrats have taken issue with Barr’s obstruction of justice determination, citing a memo that he sent to the Justice Department before his confirmation arguing it would be “fatally misconceived” that Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey could be the basis of an obstruction of justice inquiry.
“His conclusions raise more questions than they answer,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said Sunday. “The American people are entitled to a full accounting of the president’s misconduct referenced by the special counsel.”
Mueller, according to Barr’s summary, did not find that the Trump campaign officials or any associated with it conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election. Barr also revealed Mueller’s conclusion on obstruction, that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also doesn’t exonerate him,” and said the special counsel set out evidence on “both sides of the question.”
“Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.
Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill celebrated Mueller’s conspiracy conclusion, arguing that it vindicated the president.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement Sunday that the findings meant the “case is closed” on the matters investigated by Mueller, a conclusion rejected by Democrats.
“This is just the beginning,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, told ABC News Sunday afternoon. “It’s case closed criminally but not case closed as to whether the president committed a high crime or misdemeanor.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, a Trump ally and member of the House Judiciary Committee, argued that Democrats’ focus on the Russia probe would hurt their standing with the public.
“We will be able to show that this batch of Democrats that had been telling lies about the president for 22 months, cannot be trusted,” he said, previewing Republicans’ message ahead of the 2020 presidential election. “They can’t be trusted on healthcare, on infrastructure, on education, because they came here to Washington insisting that there was this Russia collusion. They’ve spent all their time on that narrative, it’s proven to be false.
“And I think the American people see who’s fighting for them in this president, and who’s just trying to create a distraction that ultimately was disproven.”
Nadler and five House Democratic chairs asked the Justice Department for the full Mueller report by next week, and for the underlying evidence to be transmitted to Congress beginning on, April 2. The House Judiciary Committee has also asked Barr to appear before the panel to testify, according to Judiciary Committee members, who met privately on Monday evening with the committee’s special oversight counsels to plot out the path forward.
In a statement with Schiff and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, he said it was “unacceptable that, after Special Counsel Mueller spent 22 months meticulously uncovering this evidence, Attorney General Barr made a decision not to charge the President in under 48 hours,” and did so without interviewing Trump.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, who also said he wanted Barr to testify, stood by the attorney general’s conclusions on Monday, and said he wanted his committee to investigate the handling of the Russia counterintelligence investigation.
The attorney general is also expected to appear before the House Appropriations Committee for a budget hearing on April 9, according to a committee aide, giving Democrats another opportunity to question him about the Mueller investigation.
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