Justice Department offers to share additional Mueller documents to avoid House action against Barr

The move seems to be a last-ditch effort to stave off an "enforcement action" against Attorney General William Barr

Published May 22, 2019 12:22PM (EDT)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Department of Justice agreed to turn over documents to the House Intelligence Committee relating to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, seemingly in a last-ditch effort to stave off an imminent "enforcement action" against Attorney General William Barr.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff released a statement early Wednesday announcing the Justice Department had accepted the panel's offer as a "first step towards compliance with the subpoena."

The move comes after the California Democrat said last week that he would hold a "business meeting" Wednesday to take an unspecified "enforcement action" against the Justice Department for not complying with his subpoena for counterintelligence information related to Mueller's report.

The Justice Department on Tuesday offered to give the committee access to a less redacted version of the first volume of Mueller's 448-page report — the section discussing alleged ties between President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Moscow — and identify other documents related to the special counsel's investigation if House Democrats dropped its threat to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. The House Judiciary Committee has already voted to hold Barr in contempt for not complying with that panel's subpoena for an unredacted version of Mueller report.

Schiff said the Justice Department would begin turning over to the committee "twelve categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials as part of an initial rolling production" and noted that "the initial production should be completed by the end of next week."

The committee was expected to vote Wednesday on an enforcement action regarding Barr's subpoena, but Schiff said that meeting had been postponed as a result of the department's agreement. The subpoena, however, will remain in effect and will be enforced should the Justice Department fail to comply with the committee's full request, he added.

"The Department has repeatedly acknowledged the Committee's legitimate oversight interest in these materials," Schiff said. "I look forward to — and expect — continued compliance by the Department so we can do our vital oversight work."

The agreement between the Justice Department and the House Intelligence Committee represents a rare detente and comes amid escalating tensions between the White House and House Democrats over investigations on issues including foreign election interference, alleged mismanagement in the White House security clearance proceduresthe president's finances and his immigration policies.

Since the Democrats seized control of the House of Representatives in January, current and former Trump administration officials have faced a barrage of subpoenas, demands to testify before a host of congressional panels and letters seeking a flurry of documents. But the White House has often ignored congressional requests for documents and witnesses, claiming that the demands are an unconstitutional infringement on the president's powers. Democrats, meanwhile, have accused the Trump administration of stonewalling or flat-out ignoring their requests for documents and information.

The executive branch's attempts to push back against congressional inquiries targeting the White House have led a growing number of Democrats to contemplate new ways to compel current and former West Wing aides to acquiesce to their demands, including heightening calls to open impeachment proceedings against the president. Some Democrats have even proposed personally fining or jailing administration officials who do not comply with their requests.

By Shira Tarlo

MORE FROM Shira Tarlo