House Judiciary chairman calls on special counsel Robert Mueller to testify "as soon as possible"

Rep. Jerry Nadler asks Mueller to testify before the Judiciary panel after Attorney General William Barr’s presser

By Shira Tarlo

Published April 18, 2019 11:15AM (EDT)

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) (Getty/Mark Wilson)
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) (Getty/Mark Wilson)

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called on special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before his panel "as soon as possible."

The letter to the special counsel was made public on Nadler's Twitter account minutes after Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that Mueller's nearly two-year investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election found "no collusion" between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia. The attorney general also asserted that ten documented episodes involving President Donald Trump and "elements of an obstruction offense" were not illegal.

"As I have already communicated to the Department of Justice, I request your testimony before the Judiciary committee as soon as possible," Nadler wrote to Mueller. "But, in any event, no later than May 23, 2019. I look forward to working with you on a mutually agreeable date."

Barr told reporters on Thursday that he had "no objection to Bob Mueller personally testifying."

The attorney general released the special counsel's nearly 400-page report detailing his investigation into allegations of whether Trump's campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 election cycle and whether the president illegally obstructed the probe Thursday morning.

Barr and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, held a press conference at 9:30 a.m ET ahead of the release of the report. Mueller was not present at the briefing.

"The bottom line," Barr said, was that "after nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes."

He said Mueller's report revealed the "Russian government sought to interfere in our election process," but added that the special counsel found "no collusion" between Russians and any Americans.

"After reviewing those contacts, the special counsel did not find any conspiracy to violate U.S. law involving Russia-linked persons and any persons associated with the Trump campaign," Barr said.

Nadler's committee, which holds the authority to launch an impeachment inquiry against Trump, demanded that the attorney general release the Mueller's entire report and its underlying evidence without redactions, arguing Barr's conclusions and his brief summary of Mueller's wide-ranging investigation were both incomplete and insufficient. The Judiciary panel authorized a subpoena for that report in early April, and Nadler reportedly plans to subpoena the Department of Justice as soon as as Friday for Mueller's findings.

Barr said Thursday that the report contains only "limited redactions," none of which were the result of executive privilege.

"As you will see, most of the redactions were compelled by the need to prevent harm to ongoing matters and to comply with court orders prohibiting the public disclosure of information bearing upon ongoing investigations and criminal cases, such as the IRA case and the Roger Stone case," Barr said.

The redactions were "applied by Department of Justice attorneys working closely together with attorneys from the special counsel's office, as well as with the intelligence community and prosecutors who are handling ongoing cases. The redactions are their work product," he added.

Barr said the decision "whether to assert executive privilege over any portion of the report rested with the president of the United States," adding that the president decided he would not assert that privilege.

"Accordingly, the public report I am releasing today contains redactions only for the four categories that I previously outlined, and no material has been redacted based on executive privilege," the attorney general said.

Barr added that the president's lawyers did not request or were permitted to make any redactions.

"The president’s personal lawyers were not permitted to make and did not request any redactions," he said. "No one outside this group proposed any redactions, and no one outside the department has seen the unredacted report, with the exception of certain sections that were made available to IC, the intelligence community, for their advice on protecting intelligence sources and methods."

The attorney general also revealed a group of bipartisan lawmakers from several congressional committees would see a version of the report without redactions, with the exception of grand jury information.

Barr's refusal to provide Congress with the full report — and his statement to senators last week that he believed "spying did occur" against the president's 2016 campaign — pointedly declined to refute charges that Mueller's investigators were engaged in a "witch hunt."

The president, who stepped up his attacks in recent days amid the imminent release of the Mueller report, has long claimed that alleged anti-Trump bias at the FBI and the Justice Department spurred federal investigations into his campaign's alleged ties to Russia during the 2016 election, demanding those intelligence officials be investigated themselves. Barr recently indicated his intention to investigate the origins of Mueller's probe, as well as various counterintelligence decisions made by FBI and the Justice Department officials, bolstering some of the president's allies who have vowed to expose a "deep state" conspiracy that claims there is a covert network entrenched inside the government working to undermine Trump.

Barr's plans to black out sensitive information in the report have drawn condemnation, particularly from Democrats who have demanded they be permitted to read the entire report and insisted the attorney general's judgment is not the final word. The top law enforcement official previously identified four areas of information that would be redacted: grand jury material; information that could "compromise sources and methods" used in intelligence gathering; findings that could jeopardize ongoing investigations; and anything that would "unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties" associated with the investigation.

The attorney general is not required by the regulations governing the special counsel to share the report with the public or notify lawmakers of more than "brief notifications, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them." Barr's defenders will likely say he fulfilled the pledges of transparency he made during his confirmation hearings to make as much of the document public as possible.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee plan to subpoena the Justice Department as early as Friday for all of Mueller's findings, as they brace for a lengthy legal battle against Trump's administration for access to the full report in the wake of Barr's anticipated redactions.

Nadler, the panel's chairman, has refrained from issuing subpoenas for the special counsel's full document, noting that he plans to wait for the attorney general to release the document to do so. Democrats on the committee and beyond have made it clear that the redacted document Barr intends to release would be insufficient and incomplete. Lawmakers are prepared to go to court to obtain Mueller's full report along with underlying evidence.

Barr has said he would make himself available to testify before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees next month after the report is released. He is scheduled to appear before the panels on May 1 and May 2 for hearings about Mueller's investigation and report.

Shira Tarlo

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