The complete findings of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections may not become public when the probe is completed, California Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday.
“One of the issues I have raised with the deputy attorney general” Rod Rosenstein is “how are we going to deal with this when the investigations come to an end?” Schiff said, referring to findings of the Mueller probe. “Will there be a report to Congress and what will Bob Mueller be able to disclose publicly?”
Schiff’s comments came at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
“These are still very open questions,” Schiff said. “I have to think and I have to hope that the public need to know is so profound that what Mueller finds will be shared with Congress and Congress will be empowered to share it with the country.”
Schiff said Rosenstein’s memo last May that laid out reasons why then-FBI Director James B. Comey should be fired included Comey’s public airing of details of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server use. President Donald Trump subsequently cited the Rosenstein memo as the reason for firing Comey. It is unclear if the Justice Department would take the same position when it comes to making public whatever Mueller finds.
The DOJ’s May 5, 2017, order appointing Mueller as the special counsel gave him broad authority to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Mueller’s appointment letter also gave him authority to prosecute any federal crimes “arising from the investigation of these matters.”
Earlier inquiries, including by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, who began investigating President Bill Clinton’s financial dealings but ultimately ended with a probe of the president’s affair with a White House intern, operated under a 1978 law. That law, which expired in 1999, allowed Starr to be independent of the Justice Department and gave him the authority to decide whether to release findings on his own.
Under current rules, Mueller’s recommendations must go to Rosenstein, who then has the authority to countermand those proposed actions. Mueller is reporting to Rosenstein because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the probe.
Separate from criminal prosecutions being pursued by Mueller and his team, Schiff said he feared the special counsel’s office may have information “that we don’t have and we’ll be in possession of information that Bob Mueller may not have. The public should get all that information” pertaining to Russian involvement in the 2016 elections.
The House Intelligence Committee is one of three congressional panels investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Schiff also said he continues to worry that Trump may fire Rosenstein, and anyone who replaces him could end up restricting Mueller’s probe and how the findings can be made public.
The California Democrat is also in the process of negotiating with the DOJ and the FBI on a memo prepared by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee that he says would rebut claims in another memo published earlier this month by Chairman Devin Nunes, alleging missteps by the FBI in seeking to surveil a former Trump campaign aide.
Schiff said he’s “close to reaching an agreement” on what to redact from the memo in order to publish details on how the FBI obtained a secret court warrant to begin surveillance on Carter Page, a onetime foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who is suspected of having ties with Russia.
Late last week the White House rejected the release of the Schiff memo, arguing that it contained classified material. Earlier the White House agreed to release the Nunes memo in full without any changes, overruling objections by the Justice Department and the FBI.