The House began debating a resolution Wednesday to encourage Attorney General William P. Barr to release special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s full report to Congress and the public when it is completed — the latest appeal from Democrats worried that parts of Mueller’s conclusions may be kept from them.
The measure is a resolution and cannot force Mueller, Barr or President Trump to send more materials to Congress and the public than the law and Justice Department rules require. That fact gave Republicans an opportunity to jeer the resolution as a waste of time.
“What we’re doing is saying, ‘Hey, you know what current law is? Follow current law.’ . . . To suggest that we’re down here doing something to protect our republic from its inevitable demise is ridiculous,” Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) said on the House floor Wednesday, ahead of a procedural vote on the resolution. “The attorney general has committed to being transparent with Congress and the public consistent with the rules and the law . . . exactly what this resolution asks for, exactly what he’s already committed to.”
Mueller is expected to wrap up his report in the coming days — and while House Democrats insist that the congressional investigations of the president’s alleged Russia ties are not dependent on his findings, they stress that knowing what ground Mueller has covered could save them precious time.
“It will greatly facilitate our own investigation not to have to reinvent the wheel,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said Tuesday at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, referring to Mueller’s expected report and the investigative evidence he unearthed. “If the department opts to . . . deprive the Congress of this evidence, it will mean that the Congress will have to re-create everything the Mueller investigation did, which will be enormously time consuming — and indeed to some extent, not thoroughly possible.”
The resolution was written by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and in calling “for the public release of any report Special Counsel Mueller provides to the Attorney General,” it acknowledges that there are portions of the report that might have to be kept secret. The resolution calls for sharing those parts with lawmakers as part of the full report.
Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Douglas A. Collins (Ga.) also is supportive of the resolution, according to his spokeswoman. And Intelligence Committee ranking Republican Devin Nunes (Calif.) also publicly endorsed the full release of Mueller’s report during comments at the Conservative Political Action Conference, noting that he wanted to see “every email. . . . Everybody that they wiretapped, every warrant that they got, every single thing that Mueller used needs to be made public for all of America to see.”
On that point, Democrats and Republicans are not in stark disagreement, though they are of differing minds as to what Mueller’s report and investigative record might reveal. The Justice Department, however, has been signaling that it will be more sparing about sharing information with Congress than it has been in the recent past — priming leading House Democrats to brace for a fight to secure materials.
Barr’s refusal to pledge to release the full report during his confirmation hearing helped fuel such concerns. And his embrace of Justice Department policy that warns against indicting a sitting president has made Democratic lawmakers concerned that any references to Trump might be blotted out of the report and record, even if, absent Trump currently occupying the Oval Office, he might have been implicated in the events Mueller investigated.