Judiciary food fight: Collins challenges Nadler to subpoena Mueller instead of Barr

Jerrold Nadler wants to up the ante in the House Judiciary Committee, and Doug Collins wants to call his bluff. The ranking Republican shot back at the chair after Nadler’s attack on Attorney General William Barr and claims of a cover-up. If Nadler’s so darned determined to get to the bottom of what Robert Mueller found, why isn’t he subpoenaing Mueller rather than Barr?

Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, called Monday for Democrats to immediately bring special counsel Robert Mueller to the Capitol to testify on his still-secret report on Russian contacts with President Donald Trump’s campaign — and whether Trump himself obstructed the probe.

“If you seek both transparency and for the American public to learn the full contours of the Special Counsel’s investigation, public testimony from Special Counsel Mueller himself is undoubtedly the best way to accomplish this goal,” Collins wrote in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). …

Collins said Democrats were essentially blowing smoke about their urgency to obtain Mueller’s complete report, arguing in his letter that the only way they can access Mueller’s underlying evidence is to open an impeachment inquiry.

Collins accuses Nadler of doing more than “blowing smoke.” In his open letter released to the media today, Collins concludes that Nadler is about to set the committee on a wild-goose chase for nothing more than base political purposes. Short of an impeachment process, Nadler’s not going to get the raw grand-jury testimony — and Collins says Nadler knows it:

Perhaps you are loath to begin an impeachment hearing when the facts do not support one, but the precedent for Congress receiving 6(e) material is clear, and such precedent does not support your current demands. In fact, this view was further bolstered by a ruling last Friday in the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, which noted federal judges do not have inherent authority to disclose protected grand jury materials except in specifically-authorized exceptions. Courts have, however, recognized a formal impeachment inquiry under the “judicial proceeding” exception as grounds for transmitting such 6(e) material to Congress. Instead, you refuse to head down that path for political reasons, and have chosen the path of greatest resistance, and least legality — attacking the Attorney General for refusing to break the law while misleading the American public about what the law requires or allows.

Your decision to make groundless claims and repeatedly threaten to go to court not only distracts from other Committee business but, based on firm legal precedent, will also end — after months, if not years, of litigation — without the Committee receiving the material you say it requires to complete its work. If you decline to launch an impeachment inquiry, which is your clear legal path to the 6(e) grand jury information, I suggest instead inviting Special Counsel Mueller in to testify before the Committee as soon as possible.

The earlier post included analysis of the Friday ruling in McKeever v Barr that eliminated almost all judicial discretion in releasing 6(e) material. For the moment, that’s the governing interpretation and precedent for the Department of Justice and Congress. It might change on appeal, but both Barr and Mueller will be governed by it until then, as will the DoJ. It’s not that they won’t reveal it; it’s that they can’t.

Collins’ ante-raiser cuts Nadler’s argument out from under him. If he really thinks that Barr has covered up and mischaracterized Mueller’s findings, why not ask Mueller himself? Have him testify under oath to the committee — roll the dice and hope it comes up seven or eleven rather than snake eyes. Maybe Mueller is unsatisfied with Barr’s interpretations, although Mueller has plenty of opportunity to make that public by refusing to cooperate with Barr — and he pointedly continues to do so. Nadler’s likely worried that Mueller will corroborate Barr’s point about grand-jury testimony, especially since Mueller put a warning about it on literally every page of the report, and torpedo Nadler’s effort to reinflate the Russia-collusion bubble.

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