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Can Democrats force the DOJ to hand over the Mueller report?

On the eve of the House Judiciary Committee’s deadline for the Justice Department to turn over special counsel Mueller's full report, questions remain over whether the time limit can be enforced. The deadline comes as Democrats threaten Attorney General Barr with contempt over his refusal to testify before the committee. Wall Street Journal reporter Sadie Gurman joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Tomorrow is the deadline for the Justice Department to turn over the full Mueller report and its underlying documents to the House Judiciary Committee. But is it a deadline that can be enforced? Will the House hold the attorney general in contempt? And what other investigations may still be going on?

    For more Wall Street Journal reporter Sadie Gurman joins us now from Washington D.C.. Thanks for being with us. So right now we're hearing about the possibility or the negotiations for Robert Mueller to testify. Where are we at with that?

  • Sadie Gurman:

    Right. I think the negotiations are ongoing. A congressman who is on the panel, on the House Judiciary Committee today said that they were getting closer to that testimony and he'd even suggested that they'd set a May 15th date. However, the Justice Department's not commenting on that, the spokespeople for the Special Counsel's office aren't commenting on that so it's actually unclear if a deal has been reached.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Yeah. And meanwhile there is a firm deadline about that report. And right now the Department of Justice hasn't made any you know hasn't given any indication that they're going to do that. So what happens next?

  • Sadie Gurman:

    Right. Well, just as you know the Democrats have said they're not backing down from their threats. It appears that the attorney general won't back down either. So if both sides are at a stalemate, the Democrats have said that they could that they want to hold the attorney general in contempt. They could also take an even more aggressive approach and move to impeach him.

    Both of those things would be somewhat difficult to do. But either way, whatever happens the outcome of this fight will have a lasting impact on the relationship between Congress and the executive branch.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Now let's talk a little bit about if he is held in contempt what happens after that?

  • Sadie Gurman:

    Well what could happen after that is that the case would be presented to a U.S. attorney's office which have historically been loath to charge an attorney general with contempt charges. This was what happened in the Obama administration with Eric Holder. But it went before, he was held in contempt and it went before a U.S. attorney who declined to pursue charges. So it's not clear that this could actually be a successful effort. But ultimately where this is destined is for the courts.

    This whole fight is a larger sign of resistance from the Trump administration to congressional oversight. So this is all in line with that thinking.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Yes. Speaking of that the Trump administration has basically said, no, either we're not going to comply or we're going to counter sue and it seems like a tactic to stretch this out longer and longer perhaps until after next election?

  • Sadie Gurman:

    That could very well be true. And while I think the White House is definitely happy with the way the attorney general is handling this you know by refusing to submit to Congress's demands, this is definitely something that the attorney general himself is a huge proponent of sweeping executive power. So this is something that he is doing on his own and it fits right in line with that resistance.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And he's been a proponent of sweeping executive power for a long time. It's not just something that he's talking about now in this particular circumstance?

  • Sadie Gurman:

    That's right. This is what we saw from him when he was attorney general under George H.W. Bush in the 1990s. This is something that he articulated in a 19-page memo that he submitted as a private citizen to the Justice Department last year. And so this behavior shouldn't really be surprising to a lot of people. He's somebody who just believes that you know, the presidency needs to be protected that the you know, the executive branch is the president and these demands from Congress are an encroachment on that.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right Sadie Gurman of The Wall Street Journal. Thanks so much.

  • Sadie Gurman:

    Thank you.

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