House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler arrives to chair a House Judiciary Committee hearing entitled "Lessons from the Mueller Report" on Capital Hill in Washington US, June 10, 2019 (Photo: Reuters)
Congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump’s administration struck a rare compromise on Monday in the battle over their investigations of him, with the Justice Department agreeing to provide evidence from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry to the House Judiciary Committee, a key investigative panel.
As lawmakers continue to discuss possible impeachment proceedings against Trump, the Justice Department relented after nearly two months of stonewalling and said it will provide evidence related to Trump’s possible obstruction of Mueller’s probe, said committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler.
At the same time, Nadler said he will hold off on a threat to bring criminal contempt charges against U.S. Attorney General William Barr. He had for weeks resisted a subpoena from Nadler’s committee to provide a full, unredacted version of Mueller’s 448-page final report and certain underlying evidence.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives still will hold a vote on Tuesday that would increase pressure on Trump by allowing the committee to sue the administration in federal court if needed over access to the report.
Nadler said a lawsuit may yet be necessary. “If important information is held back, then we will have no choice but to enforce our subpoena in court and consider other remedies,” he said in a statement.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mueller’s investigation is one front in a broad battle between Trump and congressional Democrats, who are investigating his policies, conduct in office and private businesses. Trump has vowed to fight congressional subpoenas.
Released in mid-April, Mueller’s report found Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and that Trump’s election campaign had multiple contacts with Russian officials. But the report found insufficient evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and Moscow.
The report also outlined 10 instances in which Trump tried to interfere with Mueller’s investigation but declined to make a judgment on whether that amounted to obstruction of justice.
It was not clear from Nadler’s statement whether lawmakers on the committee would get to see an unredacted copy of Mueller’s report. Barr has said he is required by law not to release evidence obtained from grand jury proceedings but Democrats have argued that he can ask a judge to make those materials public.
Grand jury materials were redacted from the section of the report dealing with Russian interference in the election. But this was less of a concern for the section of Mueller’s report dealing with obstruction, which was based on testimony from voluntary interviews Trump advisers and other witnesses gave to Mueller, rather than grand jury testimony.
Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the agreement indicates the Trump administration is not stonewalling Congress.
“Is the chairman prepared to rescind his baseless recommendation to hold the attorney general in contempt or do House Democrats still plan to green-light lawsuits against the attorney general and former White House counsel tomorrow?” Collins said.
Nadler’s committee was due to hold the first in a series of hearings on Monday meant to dig deeper into the Mueller investigation as Democrats weigh whether to move ahead with impeachment. John Dean, a key figure in the Watergate scandal that toppled former President Richard Nixon, is scheduled to testify.
Nadler’s committee so far has been unable to get another key player, former White House counsel Don McGahn, to testify.