Congressional Democrats will “obviously” take whatever steps are necessary to make public the findings of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, including subpoenaing his final report, calling him to testify and taking the Trump administration to court, Rep. Adam Schiff said Sunday.
Schiff, the Burbank Democrat who now chairs the House Intelligence Committee, pledged in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” that “we are going to get to the bottom of this.” He was referring to Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation of Russia’s 2016 election interference and links to President Trump’s campaign and administration, as well as whether the president obstructed justice in the probe.
Schiff’s comments reflected many Democrats’ concerns that Trump’s new attorney general, William Barr, will keep Mueller’s findings mostly private. The report is widely expected to go to the Justice Department soon, but after a flurry of media speculation that Mueller would send it as early as this week, on Friday a senior Justice Department official denied that.
Even so, other developments are casting a cloud over Trump’s planned summit this week in Hanoi with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump’s former legal fixer, Michael Cohen, is to testify before three congressional committees, and a Mueller sentencing memo late Friday excoriated the president’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort for “brazen” criminality.
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” said Cohen’s testimony would not be a distraction to Trump during the meeting with Kim, the two leaders’ second summit.
“Congress has its own authority,” Pompeo said. “They can move how they choose to proceed. I know what we’ll be focused on. I am very confident that the president and our team will be focused on the singular objective that we’re headed to Hanoi for.”
A flurry of Trump tweets on Sunday included a familiar denunciation of his 2016 election rival Hillary Clinton and his often-repeated denial that his campaign worked in concert with Russia, on what the U.S. intelligence community has described as a Kremlin campaign to tilt the vote in his favor.
“The only Collusion with the Russians was with Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee!” Trump wrote. In a series of postings, he also reiterated his confidence that economic incentives would persuade North Korea to denuclearize, despite his intelligence advisors’ publicly stated conclusions to the contrary.
“Chairman Kim realizes, perhaps better than anyone else, that without nuclear weapons, his country could fast become one of the great economic powers anywhere in the World!” the president tweeted.
With the Democrats now controlling the House of Representatives, Schiff has emerged as a key figure in investigating Trump. He has also promised a wide-ranging probe of the president’s finances.
While Schiff has pledged for weeks to seek maximum transparency on Mueller’s findings, his comments on Sunday added to pressure on Barr, in the attorney general’s second week on the job, to make public more than the legally required summation of the special counsel’s evidence and conclusions.
“We will obviously subpoena the report,” Schiff told ABC. “We will bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress. We will take it to court if necessary.”
Referring to the Justice Department, he added, “In the end, I think the department understands they’re going to have to make this public.” He said Barr’s legacy would be “tarnished” by any attempt to keep key findings secret.
Much of this is uncharted legal territory, however, and some Republican lawmakers and legal experts have questioned whether House Democrats could enforce a subpoena.
“I don’t know that you can,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Blunt, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he believes that the scope of investigations against Trump has become too broad.
“I’m not sure that George Washington’s expense account could stand up against the entire force of the federal government,” he said.
Some forecast a growing partisan divide. Arkansas’ Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said if the Mueller report did not ultimately “outline any offenses against the president,” it could trigger competing investigations in the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate that broke down along party lines.
“It’s going to be partisan,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a colleague of Schiff’s on the House Intelligence Committee, agreed that the report should be made public whether or not it alleged crimes by Trump.
“Everything about this has become political,” he said on NBC. “The way to end that, of course, is for the truth to be out there.”
Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, who helped write the special-counsel rules late in the Clinton administration, was also interviewed on “Meet the Press” and said the overarching aim of the regulations governing the Mueller investigation is “public confidence in the administration of justice.”
Katyal, a strong critic of the Trump administration, said even without access to the full and final report by the special counsel, what is known publicly from court filings thus far is damning.
“If this is a witch hunt, Mueller’s found a coven at this point,” he said, referring to the number of former Trump advisors and associates who have pleaded guilty to various crimes.
Former White House senior strategist Stephen K. Bannon, however, said he did not think the Mueller report posed the most serious jeopardy to Trump.
“I don’t think you’ll see much at all about Russian collusion, or [it] will be very tangential,” Bannon said in an interview, parts of which were aired on “Face the Nation.” Parallel federal investigations, such as those centering on the president’s inauguration and his business, posed far more peril, he said.
“I’ve said from the very beginning the greatest threat, I think, comes from organizations like the Southern District of New York,” said Bannon, alluding to the federal court there.