House panel authorises subpoenas for Mueller report and evidence

US Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee votes along party lines to authorise subpoenas for the full Mueller report.

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    Washington, DC - The United States House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to authorise subpoenas to the attorney general for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's full report on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, setting up a constitutional showdown between the US Congress and the administration of President Donald Trump.

    US Attorney General William Barr has issued a four-page summary of the primary findings of Mueller's investigation. In the summary, Barr said there was no evidence of a conspiracy involving Trump.

    Barr further concluded there was insufficient cause to find that Trump obstructed justice in the case by firing former FBI Director James Comey, among other things. However, Barr's letter also said Mueller's report does not exonerate Trump.

    Democrats demanded to see the entire report, underlying evidence and materials. Republicans argued the committee should wait to see a partial release of the report expected from Barr later in April.

    "On multiple occasions, I have asked Attorney General Barr to work with us to go to the court and obtain access to materials," said Representative Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 

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    "He has so far refused," he added. "I will give him time to change his mind. If we cannot reach an accommodation, then we will have no choice but to issue subpoenas for these materials."

    The Judiciary Committee also authorised subpoenas for five former White House employees: chief counsel Don McGahn, political adviser Steve Bannon, communications director Hope Hicks, chief of staff Reince Priebus and deputy counsel Ann Donaldson.

    "We believe that these individuals may have received documents from the White House in preparation for their interviews with the special counsel. We also believe that these individuals may have turned this information over to their private attorneys," Nadler said.

    Republicans push back

    Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, who have been defending Trump throughout the Mueller investigation, decried the Democrat majority's actions as perpetuating fabricated claims designed to undermine Trump and his presidency. 

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    "Bob Mueller has provided his findings to the attorney general, who has accurately summarised those. And with respect to Trump-Russia collusion, Bob Mueller has said there are no witches," said Representative John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican, referring to Trump's repeated labelling of the Mueller investigation as a "witch-hunt". 

    "The letter from the attorney general referencing the special counsel's report said no new indictments, no sealed indictments, no collusion and did not find obstruction," said Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican.

    "On the question of collusion, he was very clear. He said there were multiple opportunities for people associated with the Trump campaign to collude, and they didn't. So multiple times where the forbidden fruit was placed in front of them, they didn't bite," Jordan added.

    Democrats cite as precedent the 1998 release to Congress of the full 445-page report by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, which included 17 boxes of documents and followed the investigation of former President Bill Clinton's dealings with the Whitewater land development project while he as governor of Arkansas. The investigation expanded to include his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

    The law requiring Starr to submit a report directly to Congress was allowed by politicians to lapse after Republicans in the House pursued impeachment over whether Clinton lied to investigators about his relationship with Lewinsky.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News