Washington is gearing up for another fight over Donald Trump’s connections to Russia, as Congressional Democrats urge the US attorney-general to release the Mueller report without redactions next week.
William Barr has promised to give Congress a redacted version of the report into links between Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia in the coming days.
But Jerrold Nadler, the head of the House judiciary committee, which has taken the lead in investigating the conduct of the Trump administration, insisted over the weekend that Mr Barr should hand over the report’s entire findings.
Mr Nadler told CNN on Sunday: “[Mr Barr] will be forthcoming only if he releases the entire report and the underlying evidence to the judiciary committee. That is the proper locus of deciding what has to be held from the public — that’s what has been done in the past.”
Mr Nadler was responding to comments from Rod Rosenstein, Mr Barr’s deputy, who told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday that Mr Barr was being “as forthcoming as he can”. Mr Rosenstein added: “This notion that he’s trying to mislead people, I think is just completely bizarre.”
Robert Mueller, who has spent the past two years investigating the Trump campaign, gave his 400-page report to Mr Barr last month without bringing any further charges.
Mr Barr then wrote a four-page summary of the report saying that Mr Mueller had not found any conspiracy or co-ordination with Moscow, but that he had been less conclusive over whether the president had tried to obstruct justice. The attorney-general added that he and Mr Rosenstein had decided not to bring a case of obstruction against the president.
Mr Barr said last week he would release a redacted report “within a week”. But Democrats on the House judiciary committee have voted to issue subpoenas to secure the full report — something Mr Nadler says he will do if Mr Barr does not provide it.
That could result in a lengthy court battle between the White House and Mr Trump’s Congressional opponents, a constitutional fight that has the potential to consume the administration ahead of next year’s election. Mr Trump’s lawyers are working on their own counter-report to Mr Mueller’s.
Mr Nadler criticised Mr Barr’s conclusion in a memo written last year that it would not count as obstruction of justice if the president exercised his supervisory authority over investigations into his own conduct.
Mr Nadler called that conclusion “a very wild theory”. “It is for Congress to decide whether the president obstructed justice, and ultimately the American people,” he added.
Meanwhile, another battle is taking shape over whether law enforcement agents spied on Mr Trump’s campaign, something Mr Barr told Congress last week he thought did occur.
Mr Barr told the Senate appropriations committee he thought the FBI might have overstepped the mark when it launched an intelligence operation into whether members of Mr Trump’s campaign were colluding with Russia.
He said: “I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It’s a big deal.
“I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that.”
Mr Trump has claimed on several occasions that his campaign was being spied on, but officials have defended the investigation, saying it was conducted within the law.
Mr Nadler on Sunday came to the defence of the FBI, telling CNN Mr Barr’s claims were “complete and utter nonsense”.
“It was proper legal surveillance when they were concerned that the Russians were trying to infiltrate a presidential campaign,” he said. “That is not spying.”
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