The House voted overwhelmingly and in bipartisan fashion to urge the Justice Department to publicly release the entirety of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election, once completed.
The move is an attempt to “send a clear signal both to the American people and the Department of Justice” that lawmakers expect to see the full account of Mueller’s work, according to the House Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).
The final vote count was 420 in favor, with no one voting no. Four lawmakers voted “present.”
But the resolution by itself cannot force Atty. Gen. William Barr to publish more of the report than he intends to — and that is why even some of the Republicans supporting it complained that the measure was a waste of time.
“Atty. Gen. Barr said he wants to be transparent with Congress and the public consistent with the rules and the law,” Rep. Douglas Collins (R-Ga.), the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, said on the House floor Thursday, adding that the resolution was “simply a restatement of the regulation.”
As such, it is not clear if the Republican leader of the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, will put the resolution on the Senate floor for a vote.
For Democrats, however, passing the resolution was an important gesture, because during his confirmation hearing, Barr refused to pledge to release the full report to the public.
Democrats are worried that Barr’s strict defense of his own prerogative, combined with his stated respect for Justice Department rules advising against both the indictment of a sitting president or impugning an unindicted individual in an investigative report, means potential information implicating Donald Trump in alleged wrongdoing could be buried.
“To maintain that a sitting president cannot be indicted no matter how much evidence there is because he’s a sitting president, and then to withhold evidence of wrongdoing from Congress because the president cannot be charged, is to convert the DOJ policy into a the means for a coverup,” Nadler said on the House floor just before the vote.
Democrats — and several Republicans — want Barr to release more than just Mueller’s full report. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) said the Justice Department had set itself a precedent of providing Congress with sensitive materials and making law enforcement and intelligence officials available for interviews, when the GOP-led House was investigating federal probes of Trump and Hilary Clinton.
“Disclosure is uniquely imperative here because the special counsel reportedly is investigating whether the president himself engaged in misconduct,” Schiff said.
Several Republicans have also agreed that Mueller should release not simply the full report, but any and all investigative materials that informed it.
“I want the American people to know as much as they can and to see as much as they can ... it should have been broader,” said Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), a member of the Intelligence Committee and former CIA officer. “The taxpayers paid millions for this information, and they should get to see all of it.”
Demirjian writes for the Washington Post.