Sun, Mar 24, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Democrats call for release of Mueller report

HANDS TIED?The attorney general has said that he wants to release as much data as possible, but he is only required to notify Congress of the probe’s completion


Within minutes of receiving notification that US special counsel Robert Mueller had turned over his report on an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, congressional Democrats were calling for the report to be fully released, including the underlying evidence.

They have threatened subpoenas if it is not.

The demands are setting up a potential tug-of-war between congressional Democrats and US President Donald Trump’s administration that federal judges might eventually have to referee.

Six Democratic committee chairmen on Friday wrote in a letter to US Attorney General William Barr that if Mueller has any reason to believe that Trump “has engaged in criminal or other serious misconduct,” then the US Department of Justice should not conceal it.

“The president is not above the law and the need for public faith in our democratic institutions and the rule of law must be the priority,” the chairmen wrote.

It was unclear what Mueller has found related to the president, or if any of it would be damning.

In his investigation of whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the 2016 election, Mueller has already filed charges against 34 people, including six aides and advisers to the president, and three companies.

Lawmakers have said that they need the underlying evidence — including interviews, documents and material turned over to a grand jury — because the department has maintained that a president cannot be indicted, and also that derogatory information cannot be released about people who have not been charged.

If the investigation did find evidence incriminating against Trump, the department might not be able to release it, under its own guidelines.

The Democrats have said that it could be tantamount to a cover-up if the department did not inform the US Congress and the public what it had found.

Barr on Friday said in the letter advising the top lawmakers on the judiciary committees of the US House of Representatives and US Senate that he had received Mueller’s report and that he intends to share its “principal conclusions” with lawmakers soon, potentially over the weekend.

He added that he would consult Mueller and US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about what other parts of the report could be shared with Congress or the public.

Barr testified at his confirmation hearings that he wants to release as much information as he can about the inquiry.

However, the department’s regulations require only that the attorney general report to Congress that the investigation has concluded, and describe or explain any times when he or Rosenstein decided an action Mueller proposed “was so inappropriate or unwarranted” that it should not be pursued.

Barr on Friday said that there were no such instances where Mueller was thwarted.

However, anything less than the full report would not be enough for Democrats.

“If the AG [attorney general] plays any games, we will subpoena the report, ask Mr Mueller to testify and take it all to court if necessary,” US Representative Sean Patrick Maloney said. “The people deserve to know.”

US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff on Friday told CNN that he was willing to subpoena Mueller and Barr, if needed, to push for disclosure.

Although Trump has said that the report should be made public, it was not clear whether the administration would fight subpoenas for testimony or block the transmission of grand jury material.

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