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Rep. Nadler: White House can’t claim executive privilege on Mueller report

Judiciary Committee chairman says administration waived that privilege ‘long ago’

House Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler said Tuesday it would be “unacceptable” for the White House to “edit” any of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report before it is released. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler said Tuesday it would be “unacceptable” for the White House to “edit” any of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report before it is released. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The top House Democrat in the impending fight between the executive branch and Congress over the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report to the public indicated Tuesday that he will strongly oppose White House lawyers’ efforts to redact some information.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler claimed Tuesday that the Trump administration waived any claims of executive privilege over Mueller’s eventual findings “long ago” when it agreed to cooperate with the probe.

White House lawyers have reportedly indicated they expect to review Mueller’s report and request redactions based on claims of executive privilege for conversations between President Donald Trump and his advisers. The administration would have to prove that those conversations needed to be withheld because of sensitive content like national security. It wouldn’t cover any aspects of the 2016 campaign.

Nadler pushed back on the White House’s notion in a Twitter thread Tuesday.

“There is no provision in the regulations for White House review, and it would be unacceptable for President Trump — the subject, if not the target of the Special Counsel’s work — to edit the report before it goes public,” Nadler tweeted.

Mueller has been investigating foreign interference in the 2016 election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia since the summer of 2017. That probe has produced indictments or guilty pleas from three companies and 34 individuals, including six former Trump advisers.

The president’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen have already been sentenced to multiple years in prison.

Multiple outlets reported last month that Mueller was close to issuing his final report. But Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the day-to-day operations of the investigation, has decided to delay his departure from the Justice Department, CNN reported Tuesday, an indication that the Mueller investigation might not be nearing its end after all.

Congress’ crusade for the public release of Mueller’s full report — whenever he decides to issue it — could enter a drawn-out legal phase if Trump’s White House lawyers assert sweeping executive privilege.

The House passed a resolution last week calling for Attorney General William Barr to deliver Mueller’s full report to the House so that the chamber can publish it.

Per 1999 special counsel guidelines, Barr has broad authority to withhold whatever information he wants. He is only required to submit a “summary” of the special counsel’s findings. The breadth of that summary is up to the attorney general’s discretion.

Nadler and his Democratic colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee have repeatedly said that they will subpoena the full Mueller report if Barr only provides a summary.

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

Even if the Mueller report remains shrouded in mystery for months, Trump, whose 2016 campaign faces accusations of cozying up to foreign influences including Russia, Saudi Arabia, and others, is still not in the clear.

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are still probing the president’s finances and an alleged hush payment scheme to two of his former mistresses during the 2016 campaign, Cohen told lawmakers in February.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Manhattan unsealed the special counsel’s warrants from 2017 and 2018 that allowed the FBI to raid Cohen’s properties. Those previously sealed court documents contained an entire 18-page section entitled “Illegal Campaign Contribution Scheme” that was redacted, an indication that prosecutors’ investigation into the alleged hush payments is still ongoing.

Watch: Judiciary and oversight subpoena power, explained

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