While testifying before the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr said he plans to release the Mueller report to the public “within the week.” Great news, right? Not really. As Barr explained in a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) late last month, the report will include redactions. Democrats have since pressured the attorney general to hand over Mueller’s findings to lawmakers in the same condition they were provided to the Justice Department, but Barr clarified on Tuesday he has not been swayed. “I don’t intend at this stage to send the full, unredacted report to the committee,” he said.
Democrats were not happy. “I think it’s unfortunate,” Nadler told reporters following Barr’s testimony. “We’ve been doing everything we could for the last weeks and weeks to try and reach an accommodation with the attorney general under which we would see the report and the underlying evidence.”
Though Barr has discretion over how much of the report is released to Congress and the public, Democrats believe there are steps they can take to obtain at least some of the redacted materials. No one has argued for their release more aggressively than Nadler, who believes Congress has the right to view the entire report.
Congress is—as a matter of law—entitled to each of the categories AG Barr proposed to redact from the Special Counsel's report. Full release of the report to Congress is consistent with both congressional intent and the interests of the American public. https://t.co/rfplPJ6uXB pic.twitter.com/5YPT7eCo4d
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) April 9, 2019
“To the extent you believe any other types of redactions are necessary, we again urge you to engage in an immediate consultation to address and alleviate any concerns you have about providing that information to Congress,” the committee chairs wrote to Barr earlier this month. “We still have not heard from the Attorney General,” Nadler tweeted following Barr’s testimony on Tuesday.
Nadler may be done asking nicely. The Judiciary Committee chairman is now prepared to subpoena the Justice Department for the portions of report redacted because they are grand jury materials subject to secrecy under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e). Considering the special counsel’s office issued over 2,800 grand jury subpoenas, this could make up a substantial portion of the report. A subpoena from Nadler is necessary, as Barr has maintained that he will not ask a federal court to allow Congress to review these portions of the report, even, as Rep. Ed Case (D-HI) pointed out during Tuesday’s testimony, he has full authority to do so. “If the chairman believes that he’s entitled to receive it, he can move the court for it,” Barr said.
Nadler isn’t the only Democrat making moves to obtain what Barr won’t release. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-NY) said on Tuesday that he has already requested information pertaining to the counterintelligence portion of Mueller’s investigation, which he argues the Justice Department is obligated to provide under the National Security Act of 1947 so it can be determined if the president is in some way compromised. “I think that’s a betrayal to what he promised during his confirmation,” Schiff told CNN of Barr obstinance. “But it’s what he was hired to do, which is to protect the president. The president wanted his own Roy Cohn and apparently he got one. But it is deeply concerning.”
During his confirmation hearing in January, Barr pledged to senators that in regard to the Mueller report he would “provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law.”
Today we learned:
Barr still won’t commit to giving Congress the full unredacted Mueller report,
Barr won’t request court approval to give us grand jury material, and
Barr won’t even say if the White House has seen, or been briefed on, the report.
Trump got his Roy Cohn. https://t.co/8eljMjgEeN
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 9, 2019
Barr acknowledged on Tuesday that he could “envision a situation where under appropriate safeguards” the counterintelligence information Schiff is requesting could be provided to Congress. He wouldn’t say the same for the grand jury material Nadler is after. “Until someone shows me a provision in 6(e) that permits its release, Congress doesn’t get 6(e),” he said, referring to the grand jury material.
It’s unclear how a federal court will respond to a subpoena from Nadler. Legal scholars have argued that the rules surrounding the protection of grand jury material leave plenty of room for Barr to release it, should he choose to do so. Instead, the attorney general is, for now, refusing to take any of the ostensibly legal steps to facilitate the release of that material. “Every other attorney general in his position has gone to court to request that the material be turned over in its unredacted entirety to Congress,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), according to The Hill. “So he’s completely rewritten the role of the attorney general here. He essentially wants to be judge, jury, executioner and Congress all bundled up into one.”
Another way to obtain the full Mueller report would be to argue that it pertains to a potential impeachment proceeding. “Certainly an inquiry which may help you determine whether or not to initiate an impeachment is preparatory to that,” Nadler said of the effort to obtain grand jury material, according to Politico. “We may very well decide we don’t have to do that. But we need all of the information. We shouldn’t have to launch a formal impeachment inquiry until we have more information.”
On Wednesday, Barr will testify before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, which is expected to ask him additional questions about his handling of Mueller’s report.