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FOCUS: Justice Department, Democrats Brace for Fight Over Access to Mueller Report
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=50220"><span class="small">Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian, The Washington Post</span></a>   
Saturday, 23 February 2019 12:04

Excerpt: "The Justice Department and Democratic lawmakers are bracing for a fight over access to the evidence uncovered by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III during his nearly two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump obstructed justice."

Special Counsel Robert Mueller. (photo: AP)
Special Counsel Robert Mueller. (photo: AP)


Justice Department, Democrats Brace for Fight Over Access to Mueller Report

By Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian, The Washington Post

23 February 19

 

he Justice Department and Democratic lawmakers are bracing for a fight over access to the evidence uncovered by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III during his nearly two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump obstructed justice.

Mueller’s investigation is winding down, according to people familiar with the matter, and Justice Department officials expect to receive a report from him in March. Democrats on Friday demanded that the report be made public.

A senior Justice Department official said Friday that the report will not be delivered next week, as appeared might be the case just days ago.

The agency’s regulations call for Mueller’s report to be a confidential account of who was charged, as well as who was investigated but not charged. Then, according to the regulations, the attorney general — William P. Barr — will summarize the work for Congress.

Lawmakers already are pressing for the Justice Department to turn over any additional underlying investigative documents produced during Mueller’s investigation.

The task of wresting those materials away from the Justice Department is likely to fall to the House, where Democrats are in the majority. On Friday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) joined the chairs of five other House committees in stressing to Barr, “in the strongest possible terms, our expectation that the Department of Justice will release to the public the report Special Counsel Mueller submits to you — without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law,” according to a letter lawmakers sent to the attorney general.

Democrats said they are watching for how quickly Barr delivers his summary to Congress after he receives Mueller’s findings, warning that any delay could be interpreted as a reason to fear that Barr is covering up certain revelations. Democrats also plan to instruct the Justice Department to preserve all records related to Mueller’s probe, telling Barr in their letter that he should be prepared to furnish information upon request “regarding certain foreign actors and other individuals who may have been the subject of a criminal or counterintelligence investigation” plus other investigative materials, “including classified and law enforcement sensitive information.”

The House committee chairs also asked Barr to detail his reasoning for withholding any sections of Mueller’s report that the attorney general might choose to omit from the summary he submits to Congress.

Justice Department officials have worried that they will have a weak argument for withholding such materials, given how much information was turned over to Congress after the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

When that investigation ended in 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey made public the reports of agents’ interviews with witnesses, gave public briefings to Congress and supplied additional information to lawmakers in private meetings.

Justice Department officials who cringed at that level of information-sharing and the disclosure of sensitive investigative documents did much the same after Trump fired Comey in May 2017. When Republican lawmakers demanded additional materials about both the Clinton and Russia probes, the White House squeezed the agency to comply. At one point, in early 2017, then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) refused to allow the nomination of Rod J. Rosenstein for deputy attorney general to go forward unless Grassley was provided a detailed briefing from the FBI about the Russia investigation.

Grassley got the briefing.

The trend continued after Rosenstein became the Justice Department’s second-in-command. For instance, when the president declassified a sensitive surveillance warrant, a redacted version of the document was made public. That was unprecedented, and it could affect how the notoriously tight-lipped Mueller deals with future demands for information.

“The rules for what the department turns over to Congress are based almost exclusively on precedent, and now that Republicans have established these new precedents, they’re about to find themselves hoisted on their own petard,” said Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman during the Obama administration. The department, he said, “just has no good argument why it shouldn’t provide the same transparency for the Mueller probe that it did for the Clinton investigation.”

Senior Justice Department officials, however, do not think that the path set by Comey after the Clinton probe is one they should follow when Mueller completes his work. Barr said as much in his confirmation hearing.

“If you’re not going to indict someone, you don’t stand up there and unload negative information about the person,” Barr said during his Senate hearing. “That’s not the way the department does business.”

That raises a challenge for the Justice Department, which has long held the view that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Miller said the Justice Department must turn over to Congress any incriminating information Mueller found about the president. “The Justice Department has made very clear that it is not the arbiter of presidential criminality — that is Congress’s job,” he added. “If that’s true, that means any evidence of presidential misconduct or potential criminality, they need to turn over to the branch of government they have said polices that conduct.”

If Barr were to resist such requests, lawmakers have a few options in how they respond. They can subpoena everything, from Mueller’s full report to the FBI’s summaries of their witness interviews. They can call Mueller to testify about the substance of his probe and fill in any gaps.

House Judiciary Committee Democrats believe no information from Mueller’s probe should be concealed. But for now, they are shying away from committing to a court fight for every last document, saying they want first to see whether Barr is planning to withhold anything.

They say they expect that Barr will follow the precedent set when special prosecutor Leon Jaworski provided a “road map” to Congress in 1974 of the investigation he pursued against President Richard Nixon. At that point, Democrats think, they should be able to speak with witnesses to whom access was being denied during Mueller’s probe, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the former deputy chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign, Rick Gates.

Depending on Mueller’s findings, several Democrats said, ongoing congressional investigations may benefit more from interviewing those witnesses than from waiting while lawyers seek to compel Barr to release Mueller’s notes — especially on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the one panel that has not closed its investigation of Russia’s election interference. That probe began shortly after Trump’s inauguration.

On the House side, Democrats are reluctant to spend much time waiting for a full handing over of Mueller’s documents that may never happen before they forge ahead with their own investigations. There is even some resistance to taking much direction from Mueller if such materials are fully disclosed, as the limits of the special counsel’s probe — it was restricted to looking for criminal activity — do not apply to lawmakers, who can probe any suspected misconduct or potential abuse of power.

What Democrats will be looking for most closely in Mueller’s report, aides said, is any hint he uncovered evidence that could have led to an indictment of Trump. In their letter to Barr on Friday, the House Democratic leaders warned of “the particular danger” of withholding any evidence of misconduct by Trump. “To maintain that a sitting president cannot be indicted, and then to withhold evidence of wrongdoing from Congress because the President will not be charged, is to convert Department policy into the means for a cover-up. The President,” they wrote, “is not above the law.”

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-6 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-02-23 14:20
This article is just trying to stir up a controversy. It is very clear what won't be turned over:

1. testimony from the grand jury. Much of Mueller's information came from grand jury testimony. It is illegal to reveal this. Congress won't get it.

2. material gathered by illegal and secret methods. This includes NSA surveillance and FISA warrant material. Mueller will keep these sources and methods secret.


As to people investigated but not charged, congress won't be interested in those people since they include a lot of democrats like the Podesta brothers who were Manafort's main lobbyists while he worked for Ukraine.

I think Democrats will mostly get Mueller's unsupported narratives. But that is probably what they most want. It was never Mueller's job to indict Trump. That is congresses job. It has to generate its own evidence via testimony to congress. But Mueller will give them lots of material.

Why not impeach Trump for his clearly illegal regime change operation against Venezuela? Or his illegal bombing of Syria, now that the faked poison gas event has been declared by a BBC producer to have been faked and was known to be fake from the start. There are things that Trump has done that make impeachment likely, but collusion with Russia is not one of those.
 
 
+8 # HarryP 2019-02-23 17:07
Barr is in position to give us a variation of Catch-22.

1. A sitting presidents cannot be indicted, no matter the evidence.

2. Catch-22: The FBI doesn’t release evidence unless unless it indicts.

3. Trump’s tweet exonerating him: “See, innocent: No collusion, obstruction of justice, campaign violations, money laundering,....”

4. Innocent until proven guilty - except we don’t have a mechanism to prove a president guilty.

The Constitution grants the federal government “implied powers.” But not in this case. The DoJ refuses even to “imply” that a sitting president could be held accountable for “high crimes.” Theoretically, Trump can continue his crime spree for another two (even six) years.

Is this a great country, or what?
 
 
+3 # economagic 2019-02-23 22:03
"Is this a great country, or what?"

Well, Individual No. 1 said that it WAS a great country, but no more, hence his unceasing toil to make it great "again." Some would say that it never reached true greatness, or that it has yet to do so. I say it is an empire in decline, with no judgment of its "greatness" or lack thereof for at least a century, so never to be decided if we continue on our present course. It all depends on your definition of "is."
 
 
-5 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-02-24 08:28
HP -- A sitting president can be indicted but only by Congress and not by the DOJ or any state attorney general. An Impeachment Hearing leads to an indictment, which is then tried in the Senate.

Ken Starr provided in his report a dozen or so "impeachable" offenses. Congress took those up and Clinton was impeached and indicted for several felony crimes. But he was not convicted by the Senate. I predict the same thing will happen to Trump.

You are confusing what the DOJ normally does. When the DOJ or FBI does an investigation and it decides not to indict, there is never a report released and nothing is disclosed. This is because everyone investigated is considered innocent and a report could destroy the reputation of an innocent person. Some people are calling for Barr to follow this rule. But he won't because this case is too public and too much has already been leaked by Mueller to the press.

The only problem with the impeachment process is that the parties are so corrupt. They will protect their own. Trump won't be convicted in the Senate for small or silly things. But I do believe that if Mueller had real evidence that Trump was a Russian asset and he was making decisions based on Putin's orders just as if he really were Putin's Bitch, the Senate would convict him of treason. But Mueller has no such evidence. There is none. The Steele Dossier is a democratic party dirty tricks campaign -- far worse than anything Stone ever imagined.
 
 
+2 # HarryP 2019-02-24 19:42
Rodion:

In your first sentence, two of the three points you make are wrong. You’re right to say that a state AG cannot remove a president sine that’s a federal matter.

But as for Congress, it cannot indict a president. It can merely remove him for “high scrimes and misdemeanors.” The Constitution says nothing about indictments.

As for DOJ, it can indict a president. It chooses not to do so. Under the principle of “implied powers,” one can readily argue that if a president commits “high crimes,” he ought to be handed over to the feds. In short: Congress can’t indict and DOJ won’t. Great system!

As for Clinton, he wasn’t charged with “several felony crimes.” He was charged with perjury (about sex! The Horror!) & since perjury is a form off obstruction of justice, he was also charged with that crime. (Btw, in much of the South what Bill engaged in did not constitute “sexual relations” - just a little tomfoolery - and thus he didn’t perjury himself. He decided not to press that point.)

In your third paragraph, you say I’m confused, only to restate what I had said in my point #2. Now I’m confused.

Finally, what Trump has done is not a “small or silly” matter. You’ve been ready to absolve Trump & Putin (the latter first & foremost) since Day One and you thus insist that unless there’s a tape in 4KHD of the two men conspiring, the two gentlemen are in the clear.
 
 
+8 # Elroys 2019-02-23 18:14
LEt's get real here - whether Barr hands over the report is certainly important from the perspective of how OUR government - of, by and for THE PEOPLE - works. This is not a few traffic violations by a sitting president. This is not only about crimes possibly committed - this is about the true character of the POTUS. There is no doubt that trump lies to the American people every singe day. We know about his assaults on women, his bullying personality, he calls anyone who tells the truth about him a "rat", he calls Paul Manafort a brave guy - when it's crystal clear the guy is a treasonous criminal.
For Barr to not share every single word of Mueller's report with Congress will show his real stripes.
And then there's reality. We all know that the entire report will be shared with every single person in the world who wants to read it al or just an 50 page executive summary. The only question is will the report be available in 10 seconds or 10 hours. I guess it doesn't matter all that much. Thanks to Dan Ellsberg for showing the way.
 
 
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-02-24 08:37
Elroys -- "this is about the true character of the POTUS."


I thought we were beyond criminalizing a person's character. In the bad old days, we tried to criminalize homosexuals, drug users, many ethnic minorities like Jews, Italians, Mexicans because they had bad characters. There were massive legends about the bad characters of these people and they were suppressed for being who they are.

Character is not criminal. Actions may be criminal.

Trump is a liar because he is a salesman, a con-artist, a huckster, and a politician. Who is the bigger or worse liar -- Hillary or Trump? Both are bad.

I think it should be a criminal act to lie in pursuit of one's governmental office. So when Trump claims there is an emergency on the border or that Venezuela is ruled by a dictator, he is lying and should be charged with perjury. But that is not our legal system. Politicians are allowed to lie. The theory is that we will know it and challenge them with the structure of checks and balances.

We are all besieged every day by salespeople and con-artists. We know what they are. We understand their characters. We take them as part of life and go on. That's what to do with Trump. The important thing is to do our work well and put up a good democratic party candidate in 2020.

In 2016, many people believed that Trump was more trustworthy than Hillary. We can't run a flawed candidate like that again. We need someone with good character.
 
 
+1 # HarryP 2019-02-24 09:43
Elroy’s:

Regarding Ellsberg. How many hours did it take him and Russo to cooy the Pentagon Papers? Ellsberg even used his kid to help. The papers also had to be smuggled out. It was all extraordinarily labor intensive. I bet they sweat a lot. The xerox machines ran hot.

Today, you only need a thumb drive and then push “send.” You can even post it on Facebook for the benefit of the trolls St. Petersburg and the hackers in Moscow.
 
 
+16 # PABLO DIABLO 2019-02-23 18:16
Somehow, I think if the taxpayers paid for the investigation, we should get to own/see the results.
 
 
+7 # DongiC 2019-02-24 08:36
Well, if Trump runs true to form, there is going to be a big fight over who gets to see Mueller's final report. Prediction: Trump will battle circulation every step of the way and will only surrender when the Supreme Court tells him to. My god we still can't his income tax returns.