House Democrats on Monday mostly avoided talking about Robert S. Mueller III’s report or what comes next, a day after Attorney General William P. Barr informed Congress that the special counsel “did not establish” a case that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and five other House Democratic chairs sent a letter to the attorney general on Monday demanding that he deliver Mueller’s full report to Congress by next Tuesday, April 2.
Barr’s four-page summary of the key findings outlined in the report “are not sufficient” for the House to fulfill its oversight responsibilities, the six Democrats wrote.
“The release of the full report and the underlying evidence and documents is urgently needed by our committees to perform their duties under the Constitution,” they added.
But beyond demanding the report, Democrats held their tongues on speculation about what new information the Mueller report might contain or what they will do if the Justice Department does not cooperate with their request to see it “in complete and unredacted form,” as Nadler and the other chairs specified in their letter.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi largely declined to answer reporters’ questions Monday.
“All I’m interested in is for them to release the full report,” the California Democrat said.
Trump himself suggested on Monday that he would not oppose that.
“It’s up to the attorney general. Wouldn’t bother me at all,” the president, who has asserted that Barr’s letter “exonerates” him, told reporters in the Oval Office at the start of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mueller expressly wrote in his report that declining to charge Trump was not an exoneration.
Also watch: Lindsey Graham calls for a special counsel investigation on ‘the other side of the story’ following Mueller report
No ‘selective briefings’
Pelosi did briefly break her silence on the matter when asked if she had spoken to the DOJ about congressional briefings regarding the Mueller report.
“We want all of the information to be revealed. We don’t want any selective briefings,” she said.
Nadler declined to answer a slew of questions from reporters on Monday off the House floor.
The New York Democrat demurred when asked if he has a subpoena ready for Barr if the attorney general does not meet Congress’ April 2 deadline to produce the report.
“It’s not April 2,” he said, indicating he would not speculate on contingency plans if Barr refuses to fork it over.
Nadler said Sunday after Barr sent his four-page letter that the attorney general would be brought before the committee in the “near future” to explain the “very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department” concerning its handling of the Mueller report.
House Judiciary Democrats met briefly Monday evening regarding the chairs’ letter to Barr and the effort to obtain the Mueller report from the DOJ quickly, Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal said.
Democrats “ideally” want to see the full report before bringing Barr in for a hearing, though that could change if Democrats “start seeing an effort to draw this on,” she said, referring to cooperation from the Justice Department.
Jayapal indicated that she had no direct knowledge of how quickly Nadler might issue a subpoena if Barr does not meet the April 2 deadline to produce the report. But she does “assume” the chairman will have one in his quiver.
No gag order
Democratic leaders did not issue any sort of fiat for their rank-and-file members to stay quiet, said California Rep. Ted Lieu, another Democrat on the Judiciary panel. Lawmakers concluded on their own that pursing their lips is the best policy for now.
Lieu suggested that once Democrats get their hands on Mueller’s report — far from a foregone conclusion at this point — they’ll start talking again.
“It’s harder to talk about it without seeing what it is we’re talking about,” he said.
The wait for more details on the Mueller report even seemed to tamp down fiery rhetoric from some Democrats who had previously been unabashedly calling for Trump’s impeachment.
“That has never been the ultimate goal for anybody but a few of us,” House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters told reporters Monday, acknowledging that she had been among the most vocal proponents of impeachment.
But asked if she still felt that way, the California Democrat said, “I’m going to stop and go after the report first, and then I’ll let you know.”
Most Democratic leaders and committee chairs have never called for impeachment proceedings to begin for Trump, and Mueller’s decision not to prosecute the president may have strengthened their resolve to resist such calls.
House Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings said he still agrees with Pelosi that pursuing impeachment is “not worth it,” as the speaker told The Washington Post earlier this month.
“I think this is one of those things that really need to be decided by the people at the polls,” the Maryland Democrat said. “And they’re going to have one question: Is this a person that we want in the White House? Is this a person that reflects our values? Is this a person that we’d like our children to emulate?”
Trump is not out of the investigative woods yet.
Mueller’s probe focused only on investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump or his associates colluded with the Kremlin and its associates to sway the results. The special counsel prolonged the investigation to examine whether the president had sought to illegally obstruct the probe.
He also farmed out multiple cases for further inquiry to other DOJ offices, including to prosecutors in Manhattan who are continuing to probe Trump’s financial world.
Six House committees — Judiciary, Oversight and Reform, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, and Ways and Means — have launched investigations or are preparing to launch investigations into the president’s possible obstruction of justice, corruption, personal and business finances, and ties to foreign countries or entities.
Nadler is expecting to receive “tens of thousands of documents” from 81 people and groups associated with the president, his administration, and his business empire as House Judiciary investigates allegations of obstruction of justice and corruption among Trump’s inner circle.
The Intelligence Committee has reopened its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and communications between members of Trump’s campaign team and Russia after the previous session’s GOP majority shuttered that probe early last year. Schiff has expanded that inquiry to include Trump’s overseas financial ties to Russia and other foreign countries, a probe the Intelligence panel is coordinating with Waters’ Financial Services Committee.
Cummings, whose Oversight panel has broad authority to investigate the executive branch and its leaders, has sent a bevy of letters to administration officials on a half-dozen topics, including some inquiring whether Trump overrode the advice of career FBI officials to help his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner obtain top clearances.
In addition to the security clearance issue, Cummings’ committee is looking into Trump’s alleged scheme during the 2016 campaign to buy the silence of two of his former mistresses, Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are still investigating that thread as part of its larger probe into the president’s real estate empire and other financial ties.
As Cummings said. “There’s so much more to what has gone on with this president.”