WASHINGTON — Democrats are pressing for full disclosure of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation and vowing to use subpoena powers and other legal means if necessary to get it.
Attorney General William Barr was expected to release his first summary of Mueller’s findings on Sunday, people familiar with the process said, on what lawmakers anticipated could be a day of reckoning in the two-year probe into President Donald Trump and Russian efforts to elect him.
Since receiving the report Friday, Barr has been deciding how much of it Congress and the public will see.
Democrats are on a hair trigger over the prospect that some information might be withheld.
“I suspect that we’ll find those words of transparency to prove hollow, that in fact they will fight to make sure that Congress doesn’t get this underlying evidence,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
His plan: Ask for information and if that’s denied, “subpoena. If subpoenas are denied, we will haul people before the Congress. And yes, we will prosecute in court as necessary to get this information.”
At his resort in Florida, Trump stirred from an unusual, nearly two-day silence on Twitter with the anodyne tweet Sunday morning: “Good Morning, Have a Great Day!” Then followed up: “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Mueller’s investigation is known to have concluded without a recommendation for further indictments after having snared nearly three dozen people, senior Trump campaign operatives among them.
It illuminated Russia’s assault on the American political system, painted the Trump campaign as eager to exploit the release of hacked Democratic emails to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at covering up their Russia-related contacts.
Although the probe ended without any public charges of a criminal conspiracy by the president, it was not known whether Mueller concluded that the campaign colluded with the Kremlin to tip the election in Trump’s favor.
Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Democrats won’t be willing to wait long for the Justice Department to hand over full information on the probe into whether Trump’s 2016 campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the election and whether the president later sought to obstruct the investigation.
“It won’t be months,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Asked if he still believes Trump obstructed justice, he indicated there has been obstruction but “whether it’s criminal is another question.”
Although Democrats have stoutly defended Mueller’s work against Trump’s repeated cries of “witch hunt,” Schiff was disappointed that the special counsel did not succeed in interviewing the president personally.
“It was a mistake to rely on written responses by the president,” Schiff said, because that yields answers framed more by lawyers than by the subject.
He said he was not surprised that Trump’s lawyers resisted having him submit to a personal interview, given that “the president is someone who seems pathologically incapable of telling the truth for long periods of time.”
Also on “This Week,” Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said Democrats faced the prospect of seeing no blockbuster in the Mueller report and were flailing as they try to pin something on the president.
They considered Mueller “right next to Jesus, he can almost walk on water,” he said, but “now they’re launching all kind of other charges, all kinds of other investigations.”
Mueller submitted his report to Barr instead of directly to the public because, unlike independent counsels such as Ken Starr, his investigation operated under the close supervision of the Justice Department, which appointed him.
Mueller was assigned to the job in May 2017 by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw much of his work, and the regulations governing his appointment require that he submit a confidential report to the Justice Department at the conclusion of his investigation.
That’s in direct contrast to Starr, who did not report to Justice Department leadership and was empowered to release on his own his exhaustive report detailing his investigation into the relationship between President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
Barr and Rosenstein analyzed Mueller’s report on Saturday, laboring to condense it into a summary letter of main conclusions.
Barr has said he wants to release as much as he can under the law.
That decision will require him to weigh the Justice Department’s longstanding protocol of not releasing negative information about people who aren’t indicted against the extraordinary public interest in a criminal investigation into the president and his campaign.
Democrats are citing the department’s recent precedent of norm-breaking disclosures, including during the Hillary Clinton email investigation, to argue that they’re entitled to Mueller’s entire report and the underlying evidence he collected.