House Judiciary Committee to gain access to ‘some of’ underlying evidence in Mueller Report (Updated)

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On Monday, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler announced that he had come to an agreement with the Department of Justice for access to “some of” the underlying evidence in the Mueller Report. Justice Dept. Agrees to Turn Over Key Mueller Evidence to House:

The Justice Department has agreed to provide Congress with key evidence collected by Robert S. Mueller III that Democrats believe could shed light on possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by President Trump.

The precise scope, volume or usefulness of the material was not immediately clear, but the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, said it would include “interview notes, firsthand accounts of misconduct and other critical evidence” collected by Mr. Mueller from the White House and former officials.

POLITICO adds:

“But our arrangement with the department does not extend to the full scope of our request for the full Mueller report and its underlying materials, including grand jury information, nor does it extend to our demand that Don McGahn, a key fact witness, testify before this committee,” Nadler said, referring to the former White House counsel, who was instructed by the White House to defy the committee’s subpoena for documents and public testimony.

The deal appeared to provide a rationale for House Democrats’ choice, announced last week, to back away from threats to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in [criminal] contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for the materials in question. Out of an abundance of caution, the House still planned move forward with a Tuesday vote to empower the Judiciary Committee to take Mr. Barr and other noncompliant witnesses to court to fully enforce their subpoenas if necessary.

The House will vote on a largely symbolic resolution on Tuesday regarding efforts to enforce Congressional subpoenas. The resolution is sometimes called a “contempt vote,” but the word “contempt” is not in its text. Rather, it simply reiterates a legal view that House Democratic Leadership already holds: that the five top members of the House can green-light civil litigation by committee chairs who want federal judges to make witnesses comply with their subpoenas without a vote of the full House. (h/t The Daily Beast).

The New York Times adds:

Finally, the resolution authorizes Mr. Nadler to petition a court for the disclosure of grand jury secrets related to the Mueller report to Congress. Mr. Nadler has tried to persuade the Justice Department to join him on such a petition to strengthen his case, but Democratic aides said on Thursday that he would now file that request himself in the coming weeks at the same time the House files suit against Mr. Barr and Mr. McGahn.

In the past, Special Prosecutors Leon Jaworski in the Nixon impeachment and Ken Starr in the Clinton impeachment, under the aegis of the Department of Justice, requested the court to release grand jury testimony and evidence to Congress — a specific exception under Criminal Rules of Procedure, Rule 6(e) — and voluntarily provided that information to Congress.

Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr, however, is refusing to be cooperative and is forcing Congress to jump through hoops. While there is no legal justification for Barr’s DOJ to oppose the House Judiciary Committee’s request to the court for the release of grand jury testimony and evidence, would it really surprise anyone if Barr’s DOJ did exactly that after all the obstruction we have already seen? The court should grant the committee’s request, but this means more delay.

And another panel, the House Oversight and Reform Committee, is to vote on Wednesday to recommend that the House hold Mr. Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for defying subpoenas in a different case related to the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

Also on Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee to hold first public hearing on counterintelligence implications of Mueller report: The hearing will feature testimony from Stephanie Douglas and Robert Anderson, two former FBI officials who worked in the bureau’s national security branch, the panel announced Friday. It will be the first in a series of hearings the committee plans to hold on Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and links between President Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

[T]he Judiciary Committee’s deal with the Justice Department, at least for now, appeared to pull House Democrats and the Trump administration away from their collision course over the Mueller report.

“We have agreed to allow the department time to demonstrate compliance with this agreement,” Mr. Nadler said in a statement. “If the department proceeds in good faith and we are able to obtain everything that we need, then there will be no need to take further steps. If important information is held back, then we will have no choice but to enforce our subpoena in court and consider other remedies.”

* * *

The Justice Department began sharing some of the promised material on Monday afternoon. Mr. Nadler said all members of the committee would be able to view it privately, but it was not exactly clear what would be made available or when it might become public.

* * *

The more limited request outlined in recent weeks includes the F.B.I. summaries with Mr. McGahn, who served as a kind of narrator for Mr. Mueller as he assembled an obstruction case … Democrats [also] asked for summaries from interviews with Annie Donaldson, Mr. McGahn’s chief of staff; Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director; Reince Priebus and John F. Kelly, former White House chiefs of staff; Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s onetime fixer and personal lawyer; and Mr. Sessions, among others.

Democrats had also requested detailed notes taken by Ms. Donaldson about White House meetings and Mr. McGahn’s interactions with the president, as well as notes taken by Joseph H. Hunt, Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff when he was attorney general. Other documents in the narrowed request included a draft letter justifying the firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, a White House counsel memo on the firing of Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser and other documents created by the White House.

Before you get too excited, there is a caveat — there is always a caveat. Betsy Woodruff reports, White House Will Preview Mueller Evidence Before Nadler Review: Admin Officials:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler may get less than expected.

That’s because the Trump White House will work with the Justice Department to decide what exactly the committee gets to see, two senior administration officials told The Daily Beast. And, so far, the White House has not waived executive privilege regarding any of Mueller’s materials, the two officials said.

Neither official would discuss if the White House plans to use executive privilege to limit Nadler’s access to documents. But, thus far, the administration has taken a pushed back against many Congressional oversight efforts.

Betsy Woodruff also reports, House Judiciary Committee Allowed to Take Notes on Evidence From Mueller Probe:

Members of the House Judiciary Committee will be able to take notes on Mueller investigation evidence, and keep those notes after viewing the closely held documents, The Daily Beast has learned.

There may be a hiccup, however: A source familiar with the situation cautioned that the White House will likely have access to any evidence that could implicate its equities and executive privilege, and may try to step in and block members of Congress from seeing material it deems privileged.

* * *

A source familiar with the deal told The Daily Beast that the materials in question will stay at DOJ headquarters, nine blocks from the Capitol building. Members will have to hoof it over there to review the docs.

A Democratic committee source then shared a detail on Nadler’s deal regarding the notes and access to them. Members of the committee—both Democrats and Republicans—will be able to take notes on Mueller’s evidence and will be able to keep those notes after they leave DOJ headquarters, per the source and a second person familiar with the deal.

Committee staff who see the documents will be able to take notes as well, a second source familiar with the deal confirmed. A DOJ official said the deal requires that members and staff store those notes in a secure committee facility and only show them to people authorized to see them.

As noted, this agreement does not produce any fact witnesses to testify before Congress. Congress will be forced to go to court to enforce its subpoenas for witness testimony over the “total obstruction of Congress” policy of the Trump White House. It is all about delay and trying to run out the clock.

Finally, “wallflower” Special Counsel Robert Mueller has not yet agreed to testify before Congress. It appears a subpoena may be required to get him to appear.

As I have always cautioned my clients over the years, “the wheels of justice turn slowly.” In this case, maybe too slowly to save the Republic from the criminal enterprise of Donald Trump and his co-conspirators and accessories in the GOP who are aiding and abetting his obstruction of Congress and his obstruction of justice.

UPDATE: The House of Representatives vote 229 to 191 along party lines on Tuesday to give Congress the option to go to court against Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in order to obtain documents related to Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. House Dems Authorize New Powers to Take Trump World Figures to Court:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said that Tuesday’s vote provides Democrats with a failsafe if his committee again reaches an impasse with the DOJ.

“If the department proceeds in good faith and we are able to obtain everything that we need, then there will be no need to take further steps,” said Nadler in a statement. “If important information is held back, then we will have no choice but to enforce our subpoena in court and consider other remedies.”

Language included in the resolution has other implications for Democrats’ future oversight efforts: it gives committee chairs the authority to launch legal proceedings against administration officials who do not comply with subpoenas. That will expedite Democrats’ efforts to obtain documents and testimony by making it unnecessary to stage votes in the full House to enforce their subpoenas.

The resolution also allows lawmakers to sue to get ahold of grand jury information collected in Mueller’s probe, material that is redacted in the public report and of great interest to Democrats.

This lawsuit should be filed immediately.

In other breaking news, Trump Jr. to Be Interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday:

Donald Trump Jr. has agreed to be interviewed behind closed doors by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, a source familiar confirmed to The Daily Beast. The president’s eldest son has previously failed to show at two voluntary interviews, leading committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) to issue a subpoena for his testimony—a move that was disputed by the White House.

Trump allies have accused Burr of caving to Democrats by issuing the subpoena. Burr did not back down, and instead struck a deal with Trump Jr. to testify within a limited time period on a set group of half a dozen topics. The president’s son has agreed to talk about June 2016 Trump Tower meeting and the Trump Tower Moscow project, according to a source familiar with the deal.