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Democrats could subpoena Mueller report redactions as soon as Friday

Attorney General William P. Barr, center, is seen outside the Department of Justice on April 16, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to subpoena the Justice Department for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s complete report as soon as Friday, according to a spokesman, as Democrats prepare to fight the Trump administration for access to the attorney general’s anticipated redactions.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has refrained from issuing subpoenas for the report and the testimony of individuals questioned during Mueller’s investigation — including former White House counsel Donald McGahn and former White House communications director Hope Hicks — until Attorney General William P. Barr releases the report Thursday. But the committee’s Democrats have already made clear that the redacted document Barr intends to release will lack the transparency that lawmakers have demanded and the details that they are prepared to go to court to obtain.

“Obviously,” said Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), a senior member of the committee, “we will use the subpoena power to the full extent of the law.”

Scrutiny and suspicion as Mueller report undergoes redaction

In a vote of 420 to 0 last month, the House sent an unambiguous message to the attorney general that members of both political parties want to see the complete report.

Barr has resisted these entreaties, though, pressing ahead with redactions to four types of information: grand jury material; details whose public disclosure could jeopardize ongoing investigations; details that could “compromise sources and methods” used in intelligence gathering; and anything that would “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties” associated with Mueller’s investigation.

Barr has told lawmakers that he is open to discussing how to make more material accessible to them once the redacted report is out but that he has no plans to independently do so.

Trust between Democrats and the attorney general has plummeted in the weeks since Barr released a four-page letter outlining what he called the bottom-line findings of Mueller’s report, taking it upon himself to determine that there was no basis to charge President Trump with obstruction of justice, though Mueller’s probe specifically did not exonerate the president of that crime.

Barr’s refusal to provide lawmakers with additional details since then — and his statement to senators last week that he believed “spying did occur” against Trump’s 2016 campaign — have further shaken Democrats’ confidence in the attorney general’s judgment.

Barr’s spy talk emboldens Trump’s allies ahead of Mueller report’s release

This state of affairs could influence how House Democrats choose to pursue records from the Trump administration, and from financial institutions connected to the president and his businesses — and how they may use the courts to seek compliance with their summons.

Judiciary Committee Democrats have readied a number of subpoenas. And as Nadler considers the opportune moment to issue one for the full Mueller report, they also are contemplating when and how they might seek to secure a judge’s order to release grand jury materials.

Barr has indicated he is not willing to help House Democrats make that case.

In the House Intelligence Committee, Republican and Democratic lawmakers have appealed to Barr on different grounds: their statutory right to view intelligence and counterintelligence information collected by the executive branch. Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and the ranking Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), last month informed the attorney general that they expect to see “all materials, regardless of form and classification, obtained or produced by the Special Counsel’s office in the course of the investigation,” and to interview Mueller and his senior staff about their preparation of the report.

Nadler also has indicated that the Judiciary Committee wants to speak to Mueller about the report after the panel interviews Barr on May 2.

Barr has promised that once the redacted report is public, he will be forthcoming about the decisions he made regarding redactions and to forgo charges against the president.