Adam Schiff subpoenas William Barr for unredacted Mueller report and underlying intelligence

The move comes after earlier efforts by Schiff and his GOP counterpart, Rep. Devin Nunes, were ignored by the DOJ

Published May 9, 2019 11:17AM (EDT)

Adam Schiff         (AP/Cliff Owen)
Adam Schiff (AP/Cliff Owen)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff issued a subpoena Wednesday to the Justice Department for special counsel Robert Mueller's unredacted report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, in addition to all of the counterintelligence and foreign intelligence information collected during the 22-month investigation.

Schiff, D-Calif., made the demand in a letter to Attorney General William Barr that saying his committee had "no choice" but to issue the subpoena after the Justice Department ignored or rejected previous rejects made by Schiff and the panel's top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes of California.

Schiff gave Barr a deadline of May 15 to turn over the materials.

"The department has repeatedly failed to respond, refused to schedule any testimony and provided no documents responsive to our legitimate and duly authorized oversight activities," Schiff said in a statement.

"The department repeatedly pays lip service to the importance of a meaningful accommodation process, but it has only responded to our efforts with silence or outright defiance," Schiff added. "Today, we have no choice but to issue a subpoena to compel their compliance."

Schiff and Nunes, the ranking member of the panel, penned joint letters to Barr — one on March 27 and another on April 25 — requesting the counterintelligence information collected by Mueller, who investigated possible collusion between President Donald Trump's associates and Russia.

The efforts by Schiff and Nunes to obtain the investigative materials gathered by Mueller reflects a rare sign of bipartisanship between the two top intelligence overseers in the House of Representatives, who have otherwise clashed publicly — and repeatedly — over the special counsel's investigation.

Schiff has argued the counterintelligence information would help the House Intelligence Committee find out if Trump "or the people in his campaign had been compromised" by foreign interests, while Nunes has said he was seeking information to understand the origins of the special counsel's investigation.

In a letter to Barr informing him of the subpoena, Schiff said the Intelligence panel required the information in order to "discharge its unique constitutional and statutory responsibilities," including conducting oversight, assessing potential national security issues and drafting legislation to address concerns.

Schiff said in a statement Wednesday that he would go to court, if necessary, to enforce his subpoena and vowed success.

"The law is on our side," Schiff said. "The committee's efforts to obtain necessary documents to do our constitutionally-mandated oversight work will not be obstructed."

Schiff's letter came the same day the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena to provide lawmakers with an unredacted version of Mueller's report and all of its underlying evidence.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump asserted executive privilege over Mueller's full report and its underlying materials — at Barr's request — in order to prevent the Justice Department from complying with the panel's subpoena.

Since Mueller wrapped up his nearly two-year investigation in late March, the Democratic chairs of several congressional panels have ramped up their investigations into the Trump administration and the president's business entities. The Trump administration has vowed to "fight all the subpoenas" from the legislative branch and to block congressional investigators from moving forward with their probes.

The White House's stonewalling has escalated congressional Democrats' calls for impeachment. Whether this is a calculated strategy by Team Trump designed to provoke such a reaction is anyone's guess. What is clear is that Schiff's decision to subpoena Barr and the president's claim of executive privilege deepens the fight between the White House and Democrats over the issue of congressional oversight.

Earlier this week, the White House missed the third deadline imposed by House Democrats to hand over Trump's tax returns. Trump on Tuesday also instructed former White House counsel Don McGahn not to turn over documents to the Judiciary panel. Over the weekend, he said Mueller should not testify before Congress.

By Shira Tarlo

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