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WASHINGTON — House Democrats just loaded up the subpoena cannon.
Now they’re threatening to fire it at Trump’s Department of Justice if they don't turn over the full Mueller report immediately.
The House Judiciary Committee voted to authorize a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report and its underlying materials on Wednesday morning, ramping up a confrontation with the Trump administration over the right to review the findings of the two-year special counsel investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“We will as appropriate go to court,” House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler said, though adding that he’ll hold off on actually issuing the subpoena for the moment. “The department is wrong to try to withhold that information from this committee. Congress is entitled to all the evidence.”
Attorney General William Barr has said he’ll release a redacted version of the nearly 400-page document some time in mid-April. Democrats have called that offer not good enough, demanding to see all of Robert Mueller’s findings without letting Barr take a black marker to the most sensitive parts first.
Mueller submitted his report on Trump’s ties to Russia and whether Trump may have obstructed justice to Barr on March 22. But the special counsel regulations hold that the report be “confidential,” and give the attorney general wide latitude to decide how much should be revealed.
Barr said Friday that DOJ lawyers are scouring the report and cutting out four types of information ahead of the public release:
- Grand jury materials
- Classified information
- The details of ongoing investigations
- Information affecting the “privacy” of “peripheral third parties”
But Democrats have complained that the editing process may really be about creating a smokescreen to protect President Trump from anything bad that’s in there.
The committee also voted Wednesday to authorize subpoenas for five former White House officials as part of a separate investigation into abuse of power:
- Don McGahn, former White House Counsel
- Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist
- Hope Hicks, former White House communications director
- Reince Priebus, former chief of staff
- Ann Donaldson, McGahn’s former chief of staff
The vote passed 24-17, strictly along party lines, after a contentious hearing in which Republicans accused Democrats of being on a fishing expedition in search of anything that could harm Trump.
For his part, Trump has been crowing that the report grants him “complete and total exoneration,” even though a brief passage of the report already publicized by Barr says explicitly that the report “does not exonerate” Trump.
That’s led legal experts and former prosecutors to say they suspect that even though the report does not recommend any new prosecutions or say that Trump committed a crime, it could still hold plenty of negative information about Trump.
Legal experts have said Congress stands a good chance of prying loose most of Mueller’s key findings from the DOJ eventually, but that the legal duel between Congress and the DOJ could take months to play out.
“If House Democrats want the full report and the underlying materials, they can get it, but it will take time and court battles before it happens,” said Joseph Moreno, a former federal prosecutor based in New York, before Wednesday’s vote.
Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters while welcoming NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the White House April 02, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)