Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to block resolution to release full Mueller report

It marks the third time Democrats have tried to pass the resolution, which unanimously passed in the House

Published March 27, 2019 1:07PM (EDT)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Wednesday blocked an effort by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and a member of the Intelligence Committee, to unanimously pass a non-binding resolution expressing that Congress wants special counsel Robert Mueller's full report detailing his investigation into allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia to be made public. It was the second time this week that McConnell blocked an effort to release Mueller's full report.

"The fact is that a four-page summary cannot possibly illuminate what this thorough of an investigation uncovered," Feinstein said Wednesday from the Senate floor. "I find it so disappointing that so many are rushing to judgement without being able to see the full report or all of the underlying facts."

But McConnell objected to Feinstein's effort, noting Attorney General William Barr is currently working with Mueller to determine what information from his report can be released publicly.

"I have consistently supported the proposition that his report ought to be released to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the law . . . I think we should be consistent in letting the special counsel actually finish his work and not just when we think it may be politically advantageous to one side or the other," McConnell said.

Under Senate guidelines, a single member of the upper chamber can try to pass or set up a vote on a bill, resolution or nomination. In turn, a single senator can block a unanimous consent request.

It is the third time Democrats have tried to pass the resolution, which unanimously passed the House of Representatives in a 420-0 vote earlier this month. McConnell on Monday blocked that resolution, which was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The New York Democrat had previously attempted to pass the resolution in mid-March, hours after the resolution cleared the House unanimously, but Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., objected.

Schumer's and Feinstein's effort to pass the resolution comes several days after Barr submitted a four-page summary of Mueller's report to Congress, reflecting a belief among Democrats that Barr's summary of the special Mueller's probe was incomplete and insufficient. In his brief summary, Barr said Mueller did not find evidence to prove criminal collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Mueller, according to the letter, did not reach a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice. According to Barr, Mueller's decision to punt on whether Trump had obstructed justice "leaves it to the Attorney General to determine." Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded Mueller's findings were "not sufficient to establish that the president had committed an obstruction-of-justice offense," which Democrats say warrants further examination and the release of the full report.

Six Democratic committee chairs in the House sent a letter to Barr on Monday requesting that he provide an unredacted copy of Mueller's full report to Congress by April 2. In the three-page letter, the lawmakers wrote that Barr's summary of Mueller's findings "is not sufficient for Congress."

"Congress must be permitted to make an independent assessment of the evidence regarding obstruction of justice," they wrote. "The determinations you have reached regarding obstruction and the manner in which you chose to characterize the special counsel's investigation only raise further questions, particularly in light of the special counsel's decision to refrain from making 'a traditional prosecutorial judgement.'"

The top House Democrats argued that providing the report "in complete and unredacted form," along with the underlying evidence and materials, would be fully consistent with Department of Justice precedent.

The letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.; House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md.; House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass.; and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.

"All I'm interested in is for them to release the full report – the full Mueller report," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday.

Barr is not required by the regulations governing the special counsel to notify Congress of more than "brief notifications, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them." His summary report dealt a blow to Democrats, who had hoped Mueller's report would bolster their wide-ranging investigations into Trump and his business dealings.

It remains unclear what other findings Barr will release, although he has previously pledged to make as many of Mueller's findings public as possible. The attorney general is working with Mueller to determine what information from his report could be released publicly — though anything short of Mueller's complete and unredacted report, along with the underlying evidence and materials, is unlikely to be enough for the Democrats, who have vowed to subpoena Mueller and Barr, if needed, to push for full disclosure. Barr plans to issue a public version of Mueller's report within "weeks, not months," a Justice Department official said on Tuesday.

Trump, for his part, said he believes Mueller's full report should be made public, even as he criticized its existence."Let it come out," Trump told reporters last week. "Let people see it." However, it is also unclear whether his administration would fight subpoenas to compel Mueller to testify or attempt to block the release of grand jury material.

By Shira Tarlo

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