With Attorney General William Barr preparing a redacted version of the Special Counsel report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Wednesday to authorize a subpoena for the full report, as Democrats again demanded a full review of the evidence submitted in Robert Mueller's report, not a version with blacked out materials.
"We have reason to suspect this Administration’s motives," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY). "The Mueller report probably isn’t the total exoneration the President claims it to be."
After almost 90 minutes of verbal sparring, the panel voted 24 to 17 - straight along party lines - to authorize a subpoena for the 'final report' as authored by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, as well as other supporting evidence.
Also authorized were subpoenas for information and testimony from five former White House officials - ex-White House Counsel Donald McGahn, former top Trump aides Steve Bannon and Hope Hicks, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and ex-deputy White House Counsel Ann Donaldson.
Republicans mocked the effort as nothing more than a political game, especially with Attorney General William Barr expected to turn over details in coming weeks.
"This seems like a counter-intuitive way to conduct oversight,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), who noted that the Justice Department might turn over the redacted report as early as next week.
"What's the rush?" Collins asked with a tone of frustration in his voice. "Spring break?"
"You are now asking for documents you know you cannot have," said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), as Republicans cited restrictions on evidence in the law governing the work of Special Counsel Mueller.
"It seems to me we're here because the Mueller report wasn't what the Democrats thought it was going to be," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), though Democrats challenged him on that point.
“The House Judiciary committee’s demand that Attorney General Barr release the Mueller report -- including grand jury testimony and classified information -- is dangerous and ridiculous,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
It was not immediately clear when Democrats would use the subpoenas for the full Mueller report, which the Attorney General has said will be out by mid-April.
In a March 29 letter, Attorney General Barr made clear that he would turn over as much of the Mueller report as possible, but that certain material would be removed:
+ Evidence from grand jury proceedings
+ Classified information
+ Material related to ongoing investigations
+ Information related to 'peripheral third parties'
“The American people have a right to know the findings of the Mueller investigation,” said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM).
“The Attorney General needs to hand over the Mueller report,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI).
But it wasn't clear that Democrats could force the hand of the Attorney General in this case, leaving open the possibility of a legal challenge in the courts - and more political battling in the weeks and months ahead.
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