The House voted overwhelmingly and in bipartisan fashion to urge the Justice Department to publicly release the entirety of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election, once completed.
The move is an attempt to “send a clear signal both to the American people and the Department of Justice” that lawmakers expect to see the full account of Mueller’s work, according to the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).
The final vote count was 420 in favor, with no one voting no. Four lawmakers voted “present.”
But the resolution by itself cannot force Attorney General William P. Barr to publish more of the report than he intends to — and that is why even some of the Republicans supporting it complained that the measure was a waste of time.
“Attorney General Barr said he wants to be transparent with Congress and the public consistent with the rules and the law,” Rep. Douglas A. Collins (Ga.), the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, said on the House floor Thursday, adding that the resolution was “simply a restatement of the regulation.”
The resolution is not expected to get a vote in the GOP-led Senate, where Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) tried to arrange one Thursday, but he was foiled by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Graham objected to a vote on the resolution unless lawmakers also urged the attorney general to appoint a second special counsel “to investigate Department of Justice misconduct” during federal investigations of Trump’s alleged Russia ties and Hillary Clinton’s emails. Schumer refused.
For House Democrats, passing the resolution was an important gesture, as during his confirmation hearing, Barr refused to pledge to release the full report to the public.
Democrats are worried that Barr’s strict defense of his own prerogative, combined with his stated respect for Justice Department rules advising against the indictment of a sitting president or the impugning of an unindicted individual in an investigative report, means potential information implicating Trump in wrongdoing could be buried.
“To maintain that a sitting president cannot be indicted no matter how much evidence there is because he’s a sitting president, and then to withhold evidence of wrongdoing from Congress because the president cannot be charged, is to convert the DOJ policy into the means for a coverup,” Nadler said on the House floor just before the vote.
Democrats — and several Republicans — want Barr to release more than just Mueller’s full report. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said the Justice Department had set a precedent of providing Congress with sensitive materials and making law enforcement and intelligence officials available for interviews when the GOP-led House was investigating federal probes of Trump and Clinton.
“Disclosure is uniquely imperative here because the special counsel reportedly is investigating whether the president himself engaged in misconduct,” Schiff said.
Several Republicans also have agreed that Mueller should release not simply the full report but any and all investigative materials that informed it.
“I want the American people to know as much as they can and to see as much as they can,” said Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), a member of the Intelligence Committee and former CIA officer. “The taxpayers paid millions for this information, and they should get to see all of it.”