Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to court we go. On a straight party-line vote, the House Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena the full special counsel report from Robert Mueller without redactions, despite its grand-jury testimony content:
The House Judiciary Committee voted to authorize subpoenas for special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. The resolution passed Wednesday morning 24-17 in a party line vote. The committee will now also move to subpoena all underlying documents related to Mueller’s findings.
Before Wednesday’s vote, Republicans largely blasted the Democratic-led effort as violating the law, claiming the public release of the full Mueller report would present national security issues as much of the report is expected to contain redacted materials pertaining to grand jury information.
Judiciary will also vote to subpoena all of the underlying raw material on which Mueller based his report. That will set off a massive court challenge, as Attorney General William Barr plans to release only the redacted report — redacted with the cooperation of Mueller himself — in accordance with both Department of Justice policy and the law regarding grand-jury testimony.
Is there room for compromise? Nadler rejected that idea when asked by CNN’s Manu Raju, insisting that Barr had better not redact the report at all — or plan to meet him in court:
Barr has said he is working with Mueller to release a redacted version of the report, which totals nearly 400 pages, and plans to release it publicly around mid-April. But Democrats have said that a redacted report is not acceptable.
“The big question is, do we get the entire report and the documentation? Or does he redact it so it’s meaningless?” Nadler told on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.
I’m so old I remember when it was unpatriotic to question Mueller’s work. If Mueller found that no collusion took place between the Trump campaign and Russia, then why does Nadler need to see the grand jury testimony at all? It’s because Nadler wants to pursue the thread that Mueller left hanging — obstruction:
In addition to the Mueller report subpoena, the committee plans to vote to authorize five subpoenas Wednesday for former White House officials — Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Hope Hicks, Donald McGahn and Annie Donaldson — related to obtaining documents in the panel’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice.
The subpoenas set the stage for a potential court fight with the Trump administration if the Justice Department will not provide what Democrats have requested. The committee does not plan to issue the subpoenas Wednesday, but once they are authorized, Nadler can issue them at any time afterward, according to a Democratic committee aide.
Democrats want to show courts they were being reasonable in giving the Justice Department time to respond, the aide said, if the issue ultimately comes down to a court fight.
That’s silly on its face. Nadler wants Barr to commit an illegal act, which Barr won’t do. There’s nothing reasonable about the request, and there’s certainly nothing reasonable about Nadler’s refusal to work on some sort of compromise before authorizing subpoenas to peek at grand-jury testimony.
Besides, Nadler will almost certainly lose this argument in court. Nadler and House Intelligence chair Adam Schiff argue that they can get grand jury testimony unsealed by using Haldemen v Sirica, the Watergate precedent from 1974. As Kimberly Strassel points out in a lengthy Twitter thread, however, that case was about a grand jury report, not sealed testimony (via Twitchy):
As Strassel writes, the two situations are “universes apart.” Forcing open grand-jury testimony — especially in a politically fraught situation such as this — would be tantamount to destroying the grand jury process altogether. Grand juries hear one-sided testimony without opportunities for rebuttal witnesses or cross examination. While perjury rules apply, it still amounts to untested raw data that might end up being immaterial or worse in the end. Grand juries need that access in order to conduct their investigations, but if the information will eventually end up in public, people will simply stop cooperating with grand juries.
Nadler’s likely to lose this fight even if he does have a few Republicans whom he claims have agreed to “participate” in the lawsuit. That won’t matter in the long run. He wants to use it to cast doubts and shadows on Mueller’s work now that it won’t be useful for damaging Trump in any other way.