Days after special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has ended, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said his committee will fight for the full report to be released to the public and argued against President Trump asserting executive privilege to block its release.
“It's so crucial that the entire report and the evidence underlying it be released to the public,” Nadler, D-N.Y., told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” Sunday. “Transparency is key here.”
Nadler said his committee would be willing to go to the Supreme Court to get all of the information in the report, if the president asserts executive privilege to block some of the investigation’s findings from being made public.
“We are already hearing that the president may want to claim executive privilege on some of this,” said Nadler. He added that the Supreme Court ruled in 1974 that executive privilege could not be claimed in a criminal trial for subpoenaed materials, like tapes of President Richard Nixon’s personal conversations during the Watergate scandal.
“Executive privilege cannot be used to shield wrongdoing,” said Nadler. He said the president should not see the report before Congress does.
Trump has not commented on the report since Mueller delivered it on Friday to Attorney General William Barr. He took an unusual break from Twitter on Saturday, before posting a cryptic greeting Sunday morning.
Good Morning, Have A Great Day!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019
The handoff of the report marks the conclusion of a 675-day investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government but set in motion what could be months of battles over how much of it will be shared with Congress and the American public.
In a letter to Nadler and the ranking member on his committee, Rep. Doug Collins, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr said he could disclose the “principal conclusions” of Mueller’s report “as soon as this weekend.”
While Mueller’s investigation led to the indictments of 34 people, including Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and ex-attorney Michael Cohen — as well as three Russian companies — it appears there will be no more indictments coming from the special counsel’s office. It is possible some unresolved investigations may be referred to other offices within the Justice Department for prosecution.
“We know there was some collusion,” said Nadler, referring to the meeting among Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and officials with Russian government connections during the 2016 presidential campaign. “Why there have been no indictments, we don't know.”
“We know a number of things,” Nadler continued. “We know that the president pressured the FBI to go easy, to stop investigating Flynn and various other people. We know he fired the FBI director, as he put it to NBC, to take care of the Russian thing in order to stop the investigation of various people associated with him. We know he concocted the lie about the purpose of that Russian meeting [at Trump Tower in 2016].”
Nadler told Bash that Mueller’s investigation was “limited in scope and limited to crimes.”
“What Congress has to do is look at a broader picture,” said Nadler, whose committee earlier this month requested documents from 81 Trump associates, campaign and administration officials, launching an investigation into alleged obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power by the Trump administration.
If the Justice Department doesn’t turn over the full Mueller report, Nadler said he would negotiate to see it and if needed issue a subpoena.
In the event that the department doesn’t hand over the report or there are more questions once the committee receives it, Nadler told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd on Sunday that he would call Mueller to testify “if necessary, but that's a very big if.”
“He gave us a report, he speaks through that report,” said Nadler. “If that report answers all our questions, there’ll be no need to call him — if that report is all public. If that report is not public, if large parts of it are not made public, or if it leaves a lot of questions, then we have a necessity to call him."
Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton for five years and issued a detailed public report that became the basis of impeachment proceedings against Clinton, wrote in the Atlantic that Mueller “must remain silent” and cannot submit his report to Congress.
“Robert Mueller is not your everyday prosecutor,” Starr wrote. “This prosecutor, unlike other prosecutors, cannot indict if he finds an indictable offense.”
“This former FBI director — now a special counsel — has a specific reporting obligation,” he continued. “That solemn obligation is not to produce a public report. He cannot seek an indictment. And he must remain quiet.”
Barr also wrote that Mueller has “inherent discretion, as an officer of the Justice Department, to share whatever he intends to report to Congress with the president and the president’s lawyers.”
“Why would he do that?” wrote Starr. “To ensure that the president’s constitutionally recognized privilege — executive privilege — is dutifully safeguarded.”
Nadler on “Fox News Sunday” said providing Congress with anything less than the full report would be “equivalent to a cover-up.”
“Once you say that a president cannot be indictable, no matter what the evidence, as a matter of law, to then follow the principle that you can't then comment on the evidence or publicize it is to convert that into a cover-up,” said Nadler.
“If the president cannot be indicted,” he continued, “then the only way a president can be held accountable is for Congress to consider it and act, if warranted, and Congress can only do that if it has the information.”
Democrats and Republicans have both objected to keeping the report from the public.
When asked if the full report should be fully released, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on “Meet the Press” Sunday, said “absolutely.”
“I want to see all of it,” said Rubio, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “What was the underlying criminal predicate for the entire investigation? Let’s put all of that out there as well so we can pass judgment about how the investigation was conducted.”
Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal on “State of the Union” Sunday said the Mueller report is only a small part of the investigation into Trump.
“For two years, we have been clear that the Mueller investigation was a narrow investigation,” said Jayapal, D-Wash., a member of Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee. “It was focused on one thing. It does not cover obstruction of justice, abuse of power, public corruption. Those are things that we know there are crimes that have been committed, and we do need to investigate them. That's what we owe to the American people.”
“To say there’s no collusion when we haven’t seen the report… I think is disingenuous,” she said. “We need to look at everything, not just the summary conclusions but everything underneath.”
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