WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The divided U.S. Congress’ fight over the Mueller report intensified on Tuesday as the U.S. Senate’s top Republican sought to shut the door on congressional probes while House Democrats pushed ahead with efforts to gather testimony from top administration officials.
U.S. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, in a speech set for later Tuesday, planned to declare the “case closed” after Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his findings on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.
“This investigation went on for two years. It’s finally over,” McConnell said in prepared remarks. He called Mueller’s work “exhaustive” and chided elected officials for failing to unify in its aftermath.
“Would we finally be able to move on from partisan paralysis and breathless conspiracy theorizing? Or would we remain consumed by unhinged partisanship,” McConnell said in excerpts of his planned speech. “Regrettably, I think the answer is obvious.”
Meanwhile, House Democrats prepared to meet with Justice Department officials on Tuesday over Attorney General William Barr’s failure to release the full unredacted Mueller report as they prepared to cite him for contempt.
The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a Wednesday vote on a contempt citation for Barr, who missed a second deadline to give lawmakers the full report and failed to appear at a hearing before the panel last week.
The full Democratically controlled House would then vote on the rebuke.
Former White House counsel Don McGahn could also face a contempt citation if he misses today’s deadline to respond to the judiciary committee, CNN reported, citing an unnamed source. The panel has subpoenaed him for documents and called for him to testify later this month.
A contempt citation could lead to a civil court case, raising the possibility of fines and even imprisonment for failure to comply.
The judiciary panel is among several congressional committees investigating Trump and his administration on multiple issues, including the Russia investigation and Trump’s personal and business tax returns.
The administration is stonewalling the probes while the president, who has denied any wrongdoing, vowed to fight all congressional subpoenas.
On Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denied the House Ways and Means Committee’s request for Trump’s tax returns, teeing up a likely legal battle.
The president’s fellow Republicans, who control the Senate, have rejected the investigations as political theater ahead of the 2020 election.
The Mueller report detailed extensive contacts between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Moscow, but did not find a conspiracy between Moscow and the campaign. It also described actions that Trump took to try to impede Mueller’s investigation.
Democratic lawmakers also want Mueller to testify before Congress, something Trump has balked at although Barr has said he would not object.
If lawmakers decide that Trump obstructed justice by seeking to impede Mueller, the judiciary panel, chaired by Representative Jerry Nadler, could move to impeachment proceedings against the president.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)