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Battle over Mueller report moving to House floor

Rules Committee clears measure for consideration by chamber

House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said calling for the release of the Mueller report did not mean there was an prejudgment of the report's findings. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said calling for the release of the Mueller report did not mean there was an prejudgment of the report's findings. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House moved a step closer on Monday to demanding the Justice Department release to Congress the full report special counsel Robert S. Mueller III submits of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

The House Rules Committee passed the nonbinding resolution by voice vote Monday. That sets up a floor vote on the measure Thursday, according to a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which would be among the last things the chamber does before breaking for a weeklong recess.

“The American people do not want [the Mueller report] to be stashed away or hidden somewhere,” said Rules Chairman Jim McGovern.

The Massachusetts Democrat cited a CNN poll from February that found 87 percent of Americans think the Justice Department should release the report.

He also highlighted past remarks from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, in which they advocate the report’s public release.

“Let me be clear: Moving this forward is not prejudging the investigation’s outcome. We do not know if it will be critical of any individual — including the president — or not,” McGovern said.

“This is not about embarrassing President Trump. It’s about ensuring the American people have the information that they deserve,” he said.

Republicans did not raise serious objections to the resolution or demand a roll call vote. They did, however, question the measure’s timing and efficacy.

Watch: Burgess: The only thing Trump did wrong was ‘Win an election [no one] expected him to win’

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The nonbinding resolution, offered by House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and a handful of other Democratic chairs, is a waste of time, ranking member Tom Cole said, because it “doesn’t really accomplish anything.”

The Oklahoma Republican said he and his GOP colleagues would prefer to wait until Mueller actually submits his report before considering such a resolution. He noted that Attorney General William P. Barr and the DOJ might want to withhold certain sections of Mueller’s report that could compromise department sources and methods.

On substance, though, the Republicans didn’t raise many objections.

“I certainly have no objections to the calling for the release of as much of it as may be practical for people to have a look at,” Cole said.

Nadler and other House Democrats have said they will subpoena the full report if Barr only provides them with bare-minimum information.

Per special counsel regulations, Barr must present Congress with a summary of the special counsel’s work. The AG has great authority to decide how much detail he shares in that summary.

Barr was noncommittal in his confirmation hearing about whether he would allow Mueller to testify before Congress, and whether he would resist a subpoena for the report.

“If necessary, our committee will subpoena the report. If necessary, we’ll get Mueller to testify,” Nadler told CNN in January. “The American people need the information here.”

If Barr both denies lawmakers’ request to publicize the report and resists any subsequent subpoenas, that could set up a drawn-out legal battle between Congress and the executive branch over the document’s disclosure that will play out in court.

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