Less than 24 hours after the public release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s redacted report, Democrats issued a subpoena for all of the report’s underlying evidence.
The request involves a malleable precedent and is yet another example of how the partisan fault lines have shifted and widened over the past two decades — examples that you can see in the video above.
Nearly two dozen current House Democrats voted against publicly releasing independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s report on President Bill Clinton in 1998, including Reps. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.).
“Why would you not afford the president of the United States . . . to review the charges against [him] and so that you could have [his] response be part of the report?” Pelosi said at the time, slamming the House for not first letting Clinton review the Starr report.
On Thursday, she slammed the Justice Department’s “staggering partisan effort” to “spin” the Mueller report while allowing President Trump to first review it.
In 1998, then-Rep. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) praised not only the public release of the Starr report but also the release of Clinton’s videotaped grand-jury testimony, calling for congressional and public “scrutiny” of the evidence. In March, now-Sen. Graham dismissed the need to review underlying evidence gathered by Mueller. (“We’re not prosecutors,” Graham said.)
After the FBI declined to recommend charges against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) called for the release of her FBI interview transcripts. Neither has called for the release of the underlying evidence gathered by Mueller.
And in 2016, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) called the release of Hillary Clinton’s FBI interviews “unjustified and unwise.” Now he is calling for all of Mueller’s underlying evidence to be released.
It’s important to note: The Starr, Mueller and Clinton-email investigations were each operating under different Justice Department guidelines, and Democratic leaders have not called for the public release of Mueller’s underlying evidence — only the ability to review it for purposes of congressional oversight that could ultimately lead to impeachment proceedings. In addition, Bill Clinton was accused of impeachable offenses, while Mueller opted against making prosecutorial decisions with regards to Trump, so we don’t know whether he believes that Trump committed crimes. Then-FBI Director James B. Comey said Hillary Clinton’s actions were “extremely careless,” but he opted not to recommend criminal charges.
correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly counted Schiff among the Democrats voting against the public release of the Starr report in 1998. Schiff entered the House in 2001.