Justice Dept. Agrees to Turn Over Key Mueller Evidence to House – Smart Media Magazine

Justice Dept. Agrees to Turn Over Key Mueller Evidence to House


WASHINGTON — The Justice Department, after weeks of tense negotiations, has agreed to provide Congress with key evidence collected by Robert S. Mueller III that House Judiciary Committee members said could shed light on possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by President Trump, the House Judiciary Committee said on Monday.

The exact scope of the material the Justice Department has agreed to provide was not immediately clear, but the committee signaled that it was a breakthrough after weeks of wrangling over those materials and others that the Judiciary panel demanded under subpoena.

The announcement 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 contempt of Congress. The House will still proceed on Tuesday with a vote to empower the Judiciary Committee to take Mr. Barr to court to fully enforce its subpoena, but even that may no longer be necessary, the panel’s leader said.

“We have agreed to allow the department time to demonstrate compliance with this agreement. 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,” Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the committee chairman, said 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.”

“We are pleased the committee has agreed to set aside its contempt resolution and is returning to the traditional accommodation process,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. “The Department of Justice remains committed to appropriately accommodating Congress’s legitimate interests related to the special counsel’s investigation and will continue to do so provided the previously voted-upon resolution does not advance.”

Republicans cheered the agreement. Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said “today’s good faith provision from the administration further debunks claims that the White House is stonewalling Congress.”

News of the deal also came just hours before the committee convened the first of a series of hearings focused on the findings of Mr. Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation — a much-anticipated session that underscored the Democrats’ dilemma in the wake of Mr. Mueller’s report.

Because the Trump administration has blocked relevant witnesses from testifying, Monday’s session starred John W. Dean, a former White House counsel who turned against President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate affair, and former federal prosecutors, who assessed the implications of the special counsel’s findings. The testimony was limited to the contents of Mr. Mueller’s 448-page report already voluntarily made public by Mr. Barr.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump appeared to be fixated on the committee’s efforts.

Weeks ago, the Judiciary Committee requested — and then subpoenaed — the full text of Mr. Mueller’s report without redactions, as well as all of the evidence underlying it. Mr. Barr initially refused and after negotiations broke down, Mr. Trump asserted executive privilege over all the material. Democrats then voted to recommend the House hold Mr. Barr in contempt.

But in recent weeks, the Justice Department appeared amenable to a proposed compromise that would give the committee access to F.B.I. interview summaries with key witnesses, contemporaneous notes taken by White House aides, and certain memos and messages cited in the report.

The more limited request outlined in recent weeks includes the F.B.I. summaries — called 302 reports — with Mr. McGahn, who served as a kind of narrator for Mr. Mueller as he assembled an obstruction case. Mr. Mueller ultimately concluded that Justice Department policy prevented him from contemplating charges against Mr. Trump and instead left action to Congress.

Democrats asked for summaries from interviews with Annie Donaldson, Mr. McGahn’s chief of staff; Hope Hicks, the former communications director; Reince Priebus and John F. Kelly, former White House chiefs of staff; Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s one-time 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 that proved pivotal for Mr. Mueller’s team, 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.



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