- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2019

House Democrats escalated the battle over access to the special counsel’s report Friday when Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler issued a subpoena demanding the full document be produced to Congress.

Mr. Nadler also requested the “underlying evidence” special counsel Robert Mueller relied on to draw the conclusions in his 448-page report.

“My committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice,” he said.

Attorney General William P. Barr had said Mr. Nadler and a small group of other lawmakers would be granted access in secret to a broader version of the report, but he has resisted allowing Congress to be able to see information obtained through a grand jury, which under law is supposed to be kept secret.

A Justice Department spokeswoman called Mr. Nadler’s subpoena “premature and unnecessary.”

“In the interest of transparency, the attorney general released the special counsel’s ‘confidential report’ with only minimal redactions,” spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said, adding that the department has made arrangements for Mr. Nadler and other lawmakers to review the report with even fewer redactions.

Democrats say they don’t trust Mr. Barr, saying his earlier summary of the special counsel’s findings has been undercut by the redacted report, released Thursday, which details a number of questionable actions by President Trump.

Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on Mr. Nadler’s committee, blasted him for issuing premature subpoenas, pointing to Mr. Nadler’s admission Thursday that he’d only skimmed the report at that time.

Mr. Collins also said the White House showed “unprecedented openness” in dealing with the special counsel, allowing access to witnesses and documents and not shielding anything behind executive privilege claims.

“Yet Chairman Nadler disregards all of this good faith transparency without even taking the department up on its offer to review material under the redactions,” Mr. Collins said. “As a result, today’s subpoena is wildly overbroad.”

Mr. Nadler’s demand will likely initiate another lengthy legal battle — and, based on a recent appeals court decision in Washington, D.C., the government is likely to have the upper hand, at least when it comes to shielding the grand jury information.

The court in an unrelated case ruled that short of something like impeachment proceedings, Congress does not generally have a right to see that kind of secret information that’s collected for use in the criminal justice system.

The battle over access could stretch into the heart of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Mr. Barr had originally indicated nearly every page of the Mueller report contained information that would need to be redacted.

But when he released the report Thursday, it was surprisingly full. Most of the redactions related to ongoing court cases where, the government said, making the information public could damage the proceedings.

Still, Democrats were incensed at the redactions.

Mr. Nadler, in his statement announcing the subpoenas, said they “appear to be significant.”

He said Congress must see all of the evidence so it can decide “what steps we must take going forward.” He didn’t mention impeachment in his Friday statement, though on Thursday he said the Mueller report was a “roadmap” for impeachment.

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