House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff insisted Sunday he’s willing to take the Justice Department to court over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s forthcoming final report on the Russia investigation, which sources tell Fox News is wrapping up.
The DOJ’s inspector general sharply criticized former FBI Director James Comey for publicly outlining the bureau’s case against then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016 without finding criminal wrongdoing worthy of prosecution. Against that backdrop, it appeared unlikely the DOJ would be eager to release any findings by Mueller of noncriminal misconduct — but Schiff, D-Calif., suggested he has several tools to take matters into his own hands.
“We will obviously subpoena the report,” Schiff told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’ “This Week.” “We will bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress; we will take it to court if necessary. And in the end, I think the department understands they’re going to have to make this public.”
It was not clear whether the Justice Department would be obligated legally to respond to such a subpoena, or whether courts — which typically steer clear of legal and political disputes between branches of the federal government — would force the DOJ to turn over the document.
Still, Schiff criticized newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr for evidencing what he called a “bias” against the Mueller probe, which Barr now oversees, and Schiff said transparency is the only realistic solution.
Barr disclosed last month that he’d discussed Mueller’s Russia probe with Vice President Mike Pence, although he insisted he neither provided legal advice to the White House nor received any confidential information from Pence.
Barr, in testimony during his confirmation hearings, also defended the unsolicited memorandum he sent to the Justice Department last year that was critical of the Russia probe, explaining that it was narrow in scope and based on potentially incomplete information.
“If he were to try to withhold, try to bury any part of this report, that will be his legacy,” Schiff said Sunday. “And, it will be a tarnished legacy. So I think there will be immense pressure not only on the department but on the attorney general to be forthcoming.”
Barr testified that, as he understood the regulations governing the special counsel, the report would be confidential – and any report going to Congress or the public would be authored by the attorney general.
Some Democrats sounded the alarm after Barr’s testimony, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., charging that Barr indicated he’d exploit legal “loopholes” to hide Mueller’s final report from the public and to resist subpoenas against the White House.
“I will commit to providing as much information as I can, consistent with the regulations,” Barr had told Blumenthal when asked if he would ensure that Mueller’s full report was released publicly.
Schiff, meanwhile, emphasized that regardless of the special counsel regulations, Trump likely could preempt the whole issue voluntarily by ordering the DOJ to release the report.
“We are going to get to the bottom of this,” Schiff said. “We are going to share this information with the public. And if the president is serious about all his claims of exoneration, then he should welcome the publication of the report.”
Some Democrats are pointing to documents that Justice Department officials provided to Congress in the wake of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, as well as information that Republicans demanded as part of their own inquiries.
Schiff said he told department officials after they released information related to the Clinton investigation that “this was a new precedent they were setting and they were going to have to live by this precedent whether it was a Congress controlled by the Democrats or Republicans.”
In a letter Friday, Democrats warned against withholding information on Trump on the basis of department opinions that the president can’t be indicted. Many Republicans also have argued that the full report should be released, though most have stopped short of saying it should be subpoenaed.
Whatever happens with the Mueller report, Schiff has made clear that the investigations of the White House are only just beginning. The Democrat, whom Trump has derided as “little Adam S—-‘ and a ‘political hack,’ announced a new congressional probe into Trump’s financial dealings earlier this month.
Schiff also has attacked Republicans aggressively for refusing to condemn Trump.
“When he attacked the press as the enemy of the people, you again were silent. When he targeted the judiciary, labeling judges and decisions he didn’t like as illegitimate, we heard not a word. And now, he comes for Congress, the first branch of government, seeking to strip it of its greatest power, that of the purse,” Schiff wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last week.
“Many of you have acknowledged your deep misgivings about the president in quiet conversations over the past two years. You have bemoaned his lack of decency, character and integrity. You have deplored his fundamental inability to tell the truth. But for reasons that are all too easy to comprehend, you have chosen to keep your misgivings and your rising alarm private. That must end. The time for silent disagreement is over. You must speak out.”
Appearing on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” this weekend, though, Schiff revealed he repeatedly had declined invitations from Fox News’ “Hannity” to appear on-air to defend his positions.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.