A battle is brewing between Democrats in Congress and Attorney General William Barr over access to grand jury testimony, which is some of the most sensitive evidence obtained in special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation.
Barr said he is still reviewing Mueller‘s entire final report, although he issued a summary of the report’s final conclusions. He now says that he hopes to reveal much of it by mid-April, but House Democrats want in sooner.
However the biggest upcoming fight won’t be over timing, it will be over whether they ever get to see the evidence Mueller gathered that did not lead to criminal charges.
Mueller’s Underlying Evidence Is What Democrats Most Want and Need to See
Committee chairs such as Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, and Maxine Waters know that if they can obtain Mueller’s evidence files it will save them months of time. And they don’t have a lot of time, since the past two years have been wasted with Republicans in control of the House.
Barr says federal law requires him to keep evidence obtained using grand juries secret, But the government has disclosed grand jury information in the past, in certain high-profile cases. All they have to do is go to a judge to get permission to share the information.
Barr could do this, but he says he can’t, which is just one more way that he is trying to cover up the evidence from the Mueller probe.
Democrats say they need access to grand jury evidence to get a clear picture of how Russia interfered in the 2016 election and how that benefited Trump.
They say that even if no Americans conspired with Russia or other foreigners, we need to understand how the foreign countries influenced our elections.
Paul Rosenzweig, who was a prosecutor on the team that investigated former President Bill Clinton, said the underlying evidence is more important than the actual report.
“In many ways, I think the important thing is not so much the report, as the backup material,” Rosenzweig said.
Mueller‘s investigation made use of numerous grand juries, but we have no idea how much of his final report is based on evidence they collected.
The legal battle could begin as soon as Wednesday. How it plays out will very possibly determine how much of Mueller’s evidence and his final report the American people are ever able to see.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., told Barr that he should not waste time and resources keeping portions of the Mueller report from Congress. Instead, he told Barr that he should join lawmakers in asking a court to release all grand-jury information, “as has occurred in every similar investigation in the past.”
Not surprisingly, Democrats are questioning Barr’s motives for not turning over more information from Mueller‘s investigation.
“It’s a public document. It has to be turned over,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. “But as the week goes on, it just seems like the smell of a whitewash and a cover-up is getting thicker and thicker.”
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.