At least they’re giving the Mueller report a chance. House Democrats led by Judiciary chair Jerrold Nadler plan to wait one whole day after the release of the redacted report to subpoena the full version, the Washington Post reports this morning. They have already decided that William Barr’s version — produced with assistance from Robert Mueller himself — won’t satisfy their demands for total transparency.
But they’ll wait a day, just because:
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to subpoena the Justice Department for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s complete report as soon as Friday, according to a spokesman, as Democrats prepare to fight the Trump administration for access to the attorney general’s anticipated redactions.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has refrained from issuing subpoenas for the report and the testimony of individuals questioned during Mueller’s investigation — including former White House counsel Donald McGahn and former White House communications director Hope Hicks — until Attorney General William P. Barr releases the report Thursday. But the committee’s Democrats have already made clear that the redacted document Barr intends to release will lack the transparency that lawmakers have demanded and the details that they are prepared to go to court to obtain.
“Obviously,” said Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), a senior member of the committee, “we will use the subpoena power to the full extent of the law.”
Nadler and other Democrats have threatened this since the release of Barr’s summary letter. Nadler has openly bragged about having the subpoenas ready to serve, having already gotten the committee vote authorizing them. Why wait until Friday, then? Why not just issue them now? Democrats may hope that the report will have enough in the unredacted version to give them some juicy headlines tomorrow. Issuing the subpoenas would eclipse those brief nuggets in the news cycle. One has to wonder whether Nadler will wait until next week when he realizes that his target date is Good Friday and most people won’t be paying attention to the news — or if the pickings from the released report are even better than Nadler hopes.
Eventually, though, this is going to court for resolution. Can Nadler win? Probably not entirely, but there may be categories of redactions that a court might require the Department of Justice to reveal to congressional committees. The Associated Press has an explainer for the four categories in play: grand-jury testimony, classified information, ongoing investigations, and “derogatory information” on private persons. Barr explained that derogatory-info redactions would not be applied to public officials:
The Justice Department regularly redacts information about people who were interviewed or scrutinized in investigations but not charged. Barr has said he will black out information from the report “that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”
Asked by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., at a hearing last week if that meant he would redact information to protect the interests of Trump, Barr said it did not. “No, I’m talking about people in private life, not public officeholders,” Barr said.
That means that in addition to Trump, members of his family who work at the White House, such as his daughter Ivanka, could potentially be named if they were somehow entangled in Mueller’s investigation. But any information regarding his sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., who run his businesses, could be more likely to be redacted.
Both of Trump’s sons took part in the campaign, though, so Barr’s limit might not apply to them either. That’s especially true of Donald Jr, whose participation in the infamous and idiotic Trump Tower meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya made him something a bit more than a “peripheral third party” in the probe.
The closest thing to a lock-sure category that a court will likely protect is grand jury testimony. Exposing that would undermine that judicial institution, which few judges would willingly encourage (and even fewer appellate judges). The DoJ might get a lot of leeway in protecting ongoing investigations too, especially given Congress’ track record in screwing them up. Congressional committees are routinely cleared to see classified material as part of their oversight responsibilities, though, and it’s tough to see a judge denying committees access to confirmed information simply because it makes people look bad. Nadler’s likely to get some of what he wants, even if it’s not the items he might want most.
On that score, I write in my column at The Week, both sides are likely to be disappointed in the Mueller report:
At least for a few days, both parties will attempt to keep the fight alive by pumping hot takes into snippets of the report, hoping to salvage their own preferred narratives from the findings of the investigation. Does the report confirm that Mueller found enough malfeasance to impeach Trump? Does the report support Trump’s total exoneration and make the original FBI counterintelligence probe look like a “witch hunt”?
Of course! It will do both at the same time, or so we will hear. Unfortunately for partisans, the report will likely disappoint both sides, and will bore everyone else. Both sides have hyped up the investigation to the point that Mueller’s report can’t possibly compete with the narratives. …
At this point, however, one has to wonder how engaged voters remain on Russiagate. With all of the indictments now public and no charges for collusion or obstruction resulting from the investigation, it seems most people outside the Beltway will not care terribly much about parsing out the details of Mueller’s report.
Thursday’s release will be a letdown for both sides, which may just be what we need to finally move on from the special counsel probe as the center of our political attention.
That’s the final problem for Nadler, too. He may win something in court, and it might be fairly significant. However, Nadler won’t see a thing until this works its way to the Supreme Court, though, and by that time no one will care any more. If Nadler and Democrats are still beating the Mueller report dead horse at that late date, it will only serve to demonstrate how out of touch their party is with the rest of America.