It’s not a Godfather II-Michael Corleone “nothing, Senator” counteroffer … but it’s not a whole lot more than that, either. Perhaps sensing that a court fight over Robert Mueller’s report might not get resolved soon enough for his purposes, House Judiciary chair Jerrold Nadler tried suggesting a small amount of compromise from his original subpoena. At the same time, he told Attorney General William Barr that he’d better agree by Monday or face a contempt citation, and possibly worse.
CNN’s Manu Raju does a pretty good job of encapsulating the demands here, but is it “wiggle room”? Er …
JUST IN: @RepNadler threatens to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress if the DOJ doesn’t comply with new Democratic offer on the Mueller report.@mkraju reports. https://t.co/KggMgX0QEX pic.twitter.com/tgonAJiqAE
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) May 3, 2019
In a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr on Friday, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said that his committee was willing to receive a specific amount of underlying evidence from the Mueller report as part of immediate document production.
The letter marked the latest accommodation from House Democrats as they attempt to move forward on negotiations with the Department of Justice on the release of the full, unredacted Mueller report. Previously, Nadler had been demanding all of the report’s evidence.
In his letter, Nadler said the committee is willing to “prioritize a specific, defined set of underlying investigative and evidentiary materials for immediate production” including “reports from witness interviews … and items such as contemporaneous notes taken by witnesses of relevant events.”
“Since these materials are publicly cited and described in the Mueller report, there can be no question about the Committee’s need for and right to this underlying evidence in order to independently evaluate the facts that Special Counsel Mueller uncovered and fulfill our constitutional duties,” the setter said.
Even the small amount of movement isn’t necessarily firm. Nadler does suggest that he’d be willing to “prioritize a specific, defined set of underlying investigative materials for immediate production,” but not that the Judiciary Committee would stop there. They want all “302s” from witness interviews with Mueller’s team and notes taken by the witnesses — likely targeting Don McGahn. Both would implicate executive privilege, which Trump has made clear he plans to claim. And at any rate, Nadler’s not saying that the committee would be satisfied with that production as anything other than a good start.
As for good faith, it seems in short supply elsewhere, too. Nadler starts off with a disingenuous claim that the Department of Justice has “never explained” why only the Gang of Eight and the top members of the intelligence committees can see the unredacted reports. That has been clearly explained; some of the redactions involve ongoing investigations as well as sources and methods. Nadler might not like the explanations, but the explanations are in the report and its noted redactions. Nadler makes a better argument toward the end in a comparison to Jeff Sessions’ compliance with subpoenas regarding the Hillary Clinton investigation, noting that they shared classified information much more widely with the previous Congress. That might be a rather difficult point for Barr to rebut when this goes to court.
On grand-jury testimony, Nadler’s clearly dreaming. Not only does he want it unredacted for Congress, he wants Barr to go to court with Nadler to ask a judge to allow it. Nadler claims that the judicial proceeding exception applies, except that a House committee isn’t a judicial proceeding. Maybe if the House formed an impeachment committee a federal judge would allow for it, but Democrats are reluctant to take that step for some very good reasons. It’s highly unlikely that Nadler will get such an exception for his fishing expedition, especially after a special counsel did all of this investigating while being cheerleaded by Nadler and his allies and wrote a comprehensive report of his findings.
Basically, this is impeachment by proxy, as Raju notes. If Barr doesn’t knuckle under, Nadler’s threatening Barr with becoming Trump’s proxy. An impeachment effort aimed at Barr will probably go over even less well with voters, who by now are utterly exhausted from all of the inside-Beltway sniping going on, especially since the Senate will reject any such effort. This “compromise” is barely movement at all, but it’s interesting that Nadler felt the need to come up with some sort of counteroffer. Perhaps he’s getting a look at the corner into which he’s painted himself.