“Premature and unnecessary” describes a lot of reactions to the Mueller report. At least for the Department of Justice, however, it describes a subpoena for the full version of the document issued by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler almost immediately after the release of the redacted version.
On Friday, the New York Democrat subpoenaed Attorney General William Barr to appear before the committee by May 1 with “the complete and unredacted version of the report submitted … by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.”
“I am open to working with the Department to reach a reasonable accommodation for access to these materials, however I cannot accept any proposal which leaves most of Congress in the dark, as they grapple with their duties of legislation, oversight and constitutional accountability,” Nadler said in a statement.
“My Committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice. The redactions appear to be significant. We have so far seen none of the actual evidence that the Special Counsel developed to make this case.
“Even the redacted version of the report outlines serious instances of wrongdoing by President Trump and his closest associates. It now falls to Congress to determine the full scope of that alleged misconduct and to decide what steps we must take going forward.”
This morning, @HouseJudiciary has issued a subpoena to the Department of Justice for the full the Mueller report and the underlying materials. DOJ is required to comply with that subpoena by May 1. pic.twitter.com/nzu9O5CC36
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) April 19, 2019
The Department of Justice immediately pushed back on the request.
“In the interest of transparency, the Attorney General released the Special Counsel’s ‘confidential report’ with only minimal redactions,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement, according to CNN.
“The Department of Justice has also made arrangements for Chairman Nadler and other Congressional leaders to review the report with even fewer redactions. In light of this, Congressman Nadler’s subpoena is premature and unnecessary. The Department will continue to work with Congress to accommodate its legitimate requests consistent with the law and long-recognized executive branch interests.”
However, in a letter to Attorney General Barr, a number of prominent Democrat lawmakers said that solution “is not workable.”
“Given the comprehensive factual findings presented by the Special Counsel’s Report, some of which will only be fully understood with access to the redacted material, we cannot agree to the conditions you are placing on our access to the full report,” the letter read.
The 36 pages of redactions in the 448-page report fall into four categories, according to CNN: “grand jury material, information about ongoing investigations, classified material and to protect the privacy of peripheral third parties.” Republicans have said that House Democrats want Barr to break the law by opening up grand jury material — something they would only be entitled to if impeachment proceedings have been opened.
“Today’s subpoena is wildly overbroad,” Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, said.
“It commands the department to provide Congress with millions of records that would be plainly against the law to share because the vast majority of these documents came as a result of nearly 2,800 subpoenas from a grand jury that is still ongoing.”
The impeachment-proceeding hurdle for accessing grand jury testimony would put the Democrats in a double bind: Impeachment is a subject they simply don’t want to broach.
Nadler has been one of the few lawmakers in party leadership who’ve even held the possibility open in the wake of the Mueller report, saying that it “was probably written with the intent of providing Congress with a road map.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose support would likely be necessary to begin impeachment proceedings, has previously said that she didn’t support impeachment and refused to comment on the possibility in the wake of the redacted report being released.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was a bit more blunt: “Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point,” he told CNN.
So no, impeachment is still profoundly unlikely. That doesn’t mean Nadler isn’t going to drag this out for as long as possible, even if his own leadership has implicitly ruled out any possibility of impeachment.
And about that May 1 date: As Rep. Collins pointed out, it’s rather “politically convenient” considering Attorney General Barr is scheduled to appear before the committee on May 2. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.
“The chairman’s process flies in the face of normal and proper congressional oversight. I urge Chairman Nadler to narrowly tailor his subpoena and give the department a meaningful chance to respond,” Rep. Collins said in his statement.
One hopes he would but doubts he will.