Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Sunday that House Democrats will subpoena special counsel Robert Mueller III to testify before Congress if his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election is not made public.
Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC News’ “This Week” that Democrats will also subpoena Mueller’s report and are prepared to go to court against the Trump administration.
With Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation believed to be coming to an end, Democrats are seeking to ramp up pressure on Attorney General William Barr to release the full findings of the report – and setting down a marker for what course they will take if he doesn’t.
“Well, we will obviously subpoena the report. We will bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress. We will take it to court if necessary,” Schiff said. “And in the end, I think the Department (of Justice) understands they’re going to have to make this public. … Barr will ultimately understand that, as well.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman and Mueller spokesman declined to comment.
During his confirmation hearing last month, Barr said his goal would be to “provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law.” His testimony prompted concern among Democrats that he could choose not to release any of the findings of Mueller’s team that have not already been made public through indictments.
Rumors swirled last week that the report could be delivered before the end of the month. But a senior Justice Department official said Friday that the report will not be coming this week, when President Donald Trump travels to Hanoi for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Justice Department regulations call for Mueller’s report to be a confidential account of the individuals charged, as well as those who were not charged. Barr, who was confirmed earlier this month, will then summarize the work for Congress.
Democrats are pressing the Trump administration to make available as much of the Mueller report as possible. On Friday, Schiff and five other House committee leaders sent a letter to Barr emphasizing their expectation that he will release the report to the public “without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law.”
On Sunday, Schiff stepped up his focus on Barr, saying that if the new attorney general withholds any part of the report, his legacy will be “tarnished.” Ultimately, the Democratic lawmaker added, Trump should welcome the report’s release, given his repeated claims that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russian government.
“We are going to share this information with the public, and if the president is serious about all of his claims of exoneration, then he should welcome the publication of this report,” Schiff said.
Other Democrats echoed Schiff’s pledge to take action.
Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass.,. said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that if Barr “sanitizes” the report, lawmakers of both parties “have a responsibility to ensure that the American people know what happened in 2016.”
In a CNN interview, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a 2020 presidential candidate, described herself as “an advocate for a public report” but also said that lawmakers should be given any supporting information, including in a classified hearing if necessary.
Some have viewed Barr’s criticism of former FBI director James Comey during last month’s hearing as an indication of how he might handle the Mueller report. Barr argued that Comey was wrong to have announced during the 2016 campaign that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would not be charged for her use of a private email server.
“If you’re not going to indict someone, you don’t stand up there and unload negative information about the person,” Barr said at the time. His remarks stoked speculation that he might be inclined to keep secret all or part of the Mueller report, depending on its findings.
Complicating matters is the Justice Department’s long-standing position that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
The six House Democratic committee leaders touched on that point in their letter Friday, arguing that withholding evidence because the president will not be charged “is to convert (Justice) Department policy into the means for a cover-up.”
Republicans have pushed back by increasingly directing their criticism at Schiff, with many arguing that he has rushed to proclaim Trump guilty without waiting for the facts to come out. Trump earlier this month derided Schiff as “a political hack” when asked about his expanding investigations into the president’s finances.
Former congressman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., mocked Schiff on Fox Business Network’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” saying that while no witnesses so far have alleged conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, “that three-eyed raven, Adam Schiff – who can see things nobody else can see – says he has evidence.”
In a separate appearance on the program, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned that if Democrats “keep pushing” the issue of collusion, “It’s going to blow up in their face in 2020” among voters at the polls.
Opinions on whether Democrats would be able to successfully subpoena Mueller were split on Sunday.
In an appearance on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Neal Katyal, who was acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, said it was “certainly possible” that Mueller would testify before Congress.
If Mueller ends up finding information that points to potential wrongdoing by the president, Barr not only has the discretion to turn the report over to Congress, “indeed, he has to,” said Katyal, who drafted the special counsel regulations.
“The overall intent of the regulations - it’s said time and time again - is public confidence in the administration of justice. And any sort of suppressed report about presidential wrongdoing will flunk that test,” he said.
On CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., voiced uncertainty about whether Democrats could enforce a subpoena against Mueller.
“I don’t know that you can,” he told host Margaret Brennan.
Blunt also declined to say whether the Senate Intelligence Committee, of which he is a member, may pursue its own effort to have Mueller testify.”I think we’ll have to wait and see what’s in the report,” he said.
Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, said the next three to four months are going to be “a real meat grinder” for the president because of the Mueller probe and the ongoing investigations into Trump’s inaugural committee and other organizations tied to him.
“The pressure on the president is coming from many different angles,” Bannon said on “Face the Nation.” Much of the Mueller report, he predicted, will focus on potential obstruction of justice, and the report’s reception will hinge on whether the public believes the president, as “chief law enforcement officer, has the right to make those decisions or not.”
In the coming weeks, Barr is likely to face pressure not only from Congress but also from the president.
If Trump asks Barr to let him read the Mueller report, that is “perfectly fine,” said Solomon Wisenberg, who was deputy independent counsel in the probe of President Bill Clinton.
But the problem will be if Trump orders Barr to take a certain action on the report, Wisenberg said on “Meet the Press.”
“I don’t think Barr will stand for that,” Wisenberg said.
The Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian and Peter Holley contributed to this report.