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Barr not a ‘fair broker’ on Mueller report, Nadler says

Attorney General William Barr says he will release a redacted version of Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference and possible ties to Trump’s campaign this month. But the House Judiciary Committee wants the entire document and all supporting evidence, and is prepared to use a subpoena “very shortly” to get it, committee chair and Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., told Judy Woodruff.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It has been two weeks since special counsel Robert Mueller concluded his investigation into President Trump's 2016 campaign and Russian interference.

    Only Attorney General William Barr's brief summary of the nearly 400-page report has been released publicly. Mr. Barr says he intends to release a redacted version sometime this month.

    But that would change if the House Judiciary Committee got its way. Democrats on the committee voted this week to authorize subpoenas for the full report.

    The chairman of Judiciary Committee, Representative Jerry Nadler of New York, joins me now.

    Chairman Nadler, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thank you for joining us.

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York:

    Good evening.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Before I ask you about the subpoena authorization, I want to ask you, what do you expect to receive from the attorney general?

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    What we expect to receive is the entire Mueller report and all the underlying evidence. That's what we're entitled to.

    Congress has the right and the duty to look at all of that. We are the only agency that can hold the president accountable, especially since the Department of Justice thinks that a sitting president can never be indicted. We are the only agency that can hold the president accountable.

    We are constitutionally responsible for that. And to do that job, we need to see the entire report and all the underlying evidence.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, as you know, he says he's scrubbing it for grand jury information, for classified information, material he says relevant to ongoing investigations.

    How much of it do you think he's not going to let you see?

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    I think he's going to try to not let us see most of it, because he's got very broad definitions. But it's not his job to do that.

    We have to see all of it. In every analogous situation, whether it was with Nixon or with Clinton or with other situations, Congress, in the person of the Judiciary Committee, have seen all the information, the entire report. And we can then decide on — if there are any necessary redactions to protect sources and methods of intelligence and things of that nature.

    It is not the job of the attorney general, who, is after all, a political appointee of the president, who was hired for the job in order to protect the president personally. We know that this president fired the previous attorney general because he wouldn't protect him personally, fired the head of the FBI because he said he wouldn't protect him personally, and hired Barr after Barr wrote a 19-page memo saying that a president could never be guilty of obstruction of justice.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    So he is not a fit — in a fit position to make these judgments as to what can go out personally — what can go out publicly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, are you saying he's not a fair broker, playing fair in all this?

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    He's certainly not a fair broker.

    He gave up any pretense of fairness when he wrote that initial memo saying that a president couldn't — being very critical of the entire investigation and saying that a president — and using a very wild, far-out legal theory to say that a president could never be guilty of obstruction of justice.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    To clarify, when you talk about the material he's going to turn over, is this material just for the committee, the Judiciary Committee, to see, or material that would be make public for everyone to look at?

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    No, it's for the Judiciary Committee to see and the Judiciary Committee to decide what has to be kept private.

    Hopefully, we would decide that almost everything would be public, but there would be some things that couldn't be public because they involve intelligence sources and methods and various other things.

    But that's what was done in the past. The Congress was given, the Judiciary Committee was given everything, and decided how much of that to make public.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So the decision would come from your committee.

    So when it comes to the subpoena, you have been authorized to issue a subpoena. Do you expect to use it? And, if so, when?

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    We expect to use it very shortly, if he doesn't — if the attorney general doesn't give us the entire report and the underlying documents.

    The question is not the timing. He has said he will release the redacted version by the middle of the month, which probably means a week from now, more or less. That is not the issue.

    The issue is what is released. We will use a subpoena to make sure that everything is released to the Judiciary Committee, to the Congress.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you have reason to believe that these members of the Mueller investigative team who have been talking to people, who have been talking to the press, do you have reason to believe that what there is in the report is more damaging to the president than what we know?

    That's clearly what they are suggesting. Are they saying that to members of your committee, to you?

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    Well, I don't know if they're saying it to our — to members of our committee, and I haven't talked to them.

    But we're reading in the press — you know, the Mueller team didn't leak at all for 22 months. Now they're coming out and people are — and they are reportedly saying to different agencies in the press that the report is much more damning to the president than the attorney general lets on.

    There's an NBC News report that says that the report depicts the Trump campaign as being subject to a Russian intelligence operation. So, clearly, there's a lot of frustration. And, you know, they also apparently, allegedly, wrote summaries that could be rapidly released, and they weren't released.

    Instead, the attorney general, an agent of the administration, a political appointee of the administration, took it upon himself to characterize or perhaps mischaracterize the report in a couple phrases.

    And, again, we have the right to see all of that. The American people have the right to see as much as possible of that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Chairman Nadler, it's one thing to issue subpoenas, but then it's another thing altogether to get what you're asking for.

    How much legal authority, how much power ultimately does the Congress have to demand that you get this information you want?

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    Very substantial power.

    I mean, you look at the precedents in the Nixon tapes case. That was the most privileged material imaginable. I mean, those tapes were the president talking to his advisers. They claimed executive privilege, and the court said that executive privilege is not — cannot be used as a shield for wrongdoing and ordered it released. And those tapes were released, and despite the claim of executive privilege.

    So I think we have a very, very solid legal case. And, again, in every previous case, the Congress saw all this material, in addition to which we have the constitutional duty to hold the president accountable. Nobody else has that duty. And it's impossible to fulfill that duty without this information, and that's a very strong part of the case.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So you think you have got the legal upper hand?

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    I do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, Mr. Chairman, as you know, Republicans and others, the president, are saying Democrats are overreaching. Even some Democrats have raised this question, you know, that if you try to appear so determined to get information that the Department of Justice is saying shouldn't be made public, shouldn't be shared for a series of what they say are legitimate reasons, then it looks like the Democrats are grasping.

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    Well, that is nonsense.

    The Congress has the constitutional responsibility of holding the president accountable and of judging adherence to law. We have the duty to uphold the rule of law, to tamp down on abuses of power and on obstruction of justice. That's our job. We have to do that job.

    And demanding the information to do that job is not overreaching. And, again, in every previous situation, Congress did its job, and they didn't overreach. Now, the public — we will release to the public as much as possible. We will have to protect certain information for sources and methods and so forth.

    But Congress must see this, because if Congress doesn't get all the information, the then president becomes above the law and subject to no accountability.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Representative Jerry…

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    And that cannot be in this country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm sorry, what did you say?

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    And that cannot be in this country. Neither the president nor anybody else can be above the law.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Representative Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, we thank you.

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    Thank you.

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